Species: P. caerulea
Native Range: South America
Common Names: Blue Passionflower, Bluecrown Passionflower, Clock Plant (時計草)
Passiflora caerulea is a perennial vine that has trident-like lobed leaves and strikingly beautiful flowers. Native across the southern half of South America, including Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay, the plant has also been introduced to various parts of Europe like Britain in the 17th Century. The flowers are very complex and medium-sized, around 4 inches or so in diameter. Due to the flower’s clock-like form, it is also called the “clock-plant” in Japanese. If grown in a tropical environment, the plant will bloom all year round, producing orange-yellow oval fruits. Though the ripened fruit is edible, there are often more seeds than pulp, and berries produced by this species are quite bland in flavor when compared to the more tasty fruits of other passionflower species. However, it is still used as ingredients in teas, marmalades, beverages, and even ice cream.
The Blue Passionflower also has a number of medicinal applications: The fruit when eaten raw is good for digestion, and a concoction of the leaves or the roots are effective against gastrointestinal symptoms and infections (e.g. dysentery) as the chemicals in the plant have anti-inflammatory and anti-diarrhoeal effects. In addition, the roots and leaves, prepared as a tea, stun and expel intestinal parasites, and so is used by people in the West Indies, Mexico, and the Netherlands for deworming. In Brazil and Mauritius, traditional practices involve using the fruit as a sedative against insomnia and an anxiety-reducer. Furthermore, the stems and leaves can be used as mild antimicrobial agents in respiratory diseases such as catarrh and pneumonia, as seen in Argentinian folk medicine.
Despite its medicinal uses, the plant does have toxic properties that one must be wary. The plant produces a significant amount of cyanide compounds, which can be fatal upon ingestion. These are primarily found concentrated in stems, leaves, and unripe fruit, and can actually be easily detected just by crushing the leaves and stems. Furthermore, the flower when ingested causes nausea and dizziness, though one can boil away most of these compounds for safe consumption. When used properly, many beneficial effects can be gained from the plant, though it can be dangerous if one is not careful.
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