May 14, 2009
Passion Flowers and Fruits
Photo taken in Rh Bujai Sg. Kain (near Ng. Gat Ulu Kapit April 2009)
Seeing the passion flowers and fruits in Rh. Bujai in ulu Kapit brought a sudden surge of feelings about our faith and love for mankind.
I took the opportunity to explain to my co-workers about the religious symbolism of this very special flower.
The Passion Flower with its various parts is seen as a
symbols of Jesus' scourging, crowning with thorns and crucifixion.
This flower, a genus with numerous species, indigenous to the
tropical Americas, is unique among the hundreds of old Christian
flower symbols in that there is specific historical documentation
of the time and place of its origin - the symbolism having been
first perceived by the Mexican Augustinian friar, Emmanuel de
Villegas, who reported it, with sketches, in Europe in 1610.
The Passion Flower symbolism, as originally perceived, and
then augmented, includes:
The spiraled tendrils - the lash of Christ's scourging
The central flower column - the pillar of the Scourging
The 72 radial filaments - the Crown of Thorns
The top 3 stigma - the 3 Nails
The lower 5 anthers - the 5 wounds
The Style - the Sponge used to moisten
Christ's Lips with Vinegar
The leaves (some species) - the head of the Centurion's Spear
The red stains - Christ's Blood Drops
The Round Fruit - The World Christ came to save
The Fragrance - The Spices prepared by the Holy
This multiple symbolism of the Passion Flower combines a
number of symbols found in flowers individually in the prior
traditions of the rural countrysides of the Old World, from which
the missionaries to the New World came.
Thus, in the popular oral religious traditions of Spain,
Paliurus aculeatus was known as Espina de Cristo, "Christ's Thorn"
(by which name it is generally known today) and Espina Santa, "Holy
Thorn"; Pichomon acarna (?) as Azota-Christos, "Christ's Lash";
Gentiana cruciata, Cross Gentian, and others, as Hierba en Cruz,
"Herb of the Cross"; Ophioglossum vulgatum, Adder's-Tongue Fern, as
Lanza de Cristo, "Christ's Lance"; and Fumaria officinalis,
Fumitory, as Sangre de Cristo, "Christ's Blood". Familiarity with
these or other plant symbols of the Passion and Cross of Christ no
doubt pre-disposed missionaries and their converts to discover
symbolism such as that of the Passion Flower, and to make
transferrences such as that of the symbolism of "Mary's Gold" from
the European Marigold, Calendula, to the golden Tagetes genus of the
Such symbols gave a specific focus of Christian faith to
the religious sense of nature, and also provided a visual means
of teaching the Gospel story in an era where there were no
And, once introduced into Europe, the Passion Flower soon
acquired other religious names, such as in Germany, Jesus-Leiden,
"Jesus' Passion"; Christos-Strauss, "Christ's Bouquet"; Herr-
Gotts-Blume, "Our Lord's Flower"; Dorn-Krone, "Crown of Thorns";
Christos-Krone, "Christ's Crown"; Marter, "Martyr"; and
Muttergottes-Schurzchen, "Mother-of-God's Star".
Passion flowers, known throughout the world, are grown as
greenhouse plants in temperate climates, and often set out in the
garden in summer. A marvellous book, Passion Flowers (2nd Edition),
by John Vanderplank, MIT Press, Cambridge, USA, 1996, describes 150
of the over 460 known species of Passiflora, with over 120
exquisite color photographs - magnificently documenting the
multi-splendored providential celebration of Christ's Passion of
Source L Copyright Mary's Gardens 1996, 1967
Personally I have tried to grow passion flowers and fruits in my garden. But perhaps the soil in my garden may be too dry and the sea wind too salty. So I will try once again to grow behind the car porch and see if it can grow on a well constructed trellis. I have seen one plant growing right up a casuarina tree quite near a beach front house. The passion fruit may just be a graceful addition to any one's garden.