The passion flower, Passiflora incarnata, is an amazing plant rich in symbolism. It is one of the few plants that can be traced back to pre-literary times as a teaching tool for religious practices. I’ve written before — in articles and my books* — about the symbolisms associated with this vine, that when we feel ourselves faltering in our faith, we can reflect on this flower and within its beauty, find the greatest love story ever lived.
The passion flower meanings are:
- Ten petals representing the 10 of the 12 apostles who did not betray (Judas) Jesus or deny him (Peter).
- The three stigmas (the topmost part of the flower that receives the pollen) as attached to their styles (tiny little stems) recall the three nails that impaled our Lord to the cross.
- The five stamens that hold the pads of pollen (the anthers) together signify the five wounds of our Lord.
- The anthers alone represent the sponge used to moisten Jesus’ lips.
- The central column of the three stigmas and five anthers signifies both the post to which Jesus was scourged and also the cross on which he was hung.
- The 72 radial filaments are for the number of lashes Jesus received throughout his passion. They also represent the crown of thorns.
- The leaves of most species are shaped like a lance and represent the spear thrust into Jesus’ side.
- The red stain on the corona at the base of the central column and the red speckling on the style holding the three stigma is a reminder of the blood Jesus shed.
- The fruit of most passion flowers is round and signifies the world that Jesus came to save.
- The tendrils symbolize Jesus holding firmly to his purpose, and being supported by God’s love.
- The wonderful fragrance is said to represent the spices that the holy women brought with them on the day of the resurrection.
- The duration of the flower’s life is three days: the time elapsed before the resurrection of our Lord.
*A Catholic Gardener’s Spiritual Almanac: Cultivating Your Faith throughout the Year. Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 2015.