Carolina Bugbane – Native Plant of the Day 08/06/2017
Photo from Aug 3, 2013. Lula Lake, Walker County, GA.
More photos / info at the Trautvetteria caroliniensis detail page.
The picture above is the fruit of Tennessee’s State Wildflower – Passionflower, Passiflora incarnata. I can report reliably that it is edible, similar to the species which is frequently cultivated in tropical regions – Passiflora edulis, although P. incarnata fruit is typically smaller than that of P. edulis. Passiflora incarnata is a plant native to the United States, while Passiflora edulis has been introduced to the United States and is found in the wild in Georgia and Florida.
Mrs. Morse and I were chatting about wildflowers a couple of months ago when the subject of primroses came up. She commented on how lovely they were, and I agreed. Then she mentioned that she looked forward to their yellow color, and I got a puzzled look on my face. I told her that the ones I’ve been watching are pink, and they’re already blooming. Mrs. Morse got a puzzled look on her face.
Of course, we had run into the “common name problem.”
Mullein isn’t native to the United States, but there are eighteen species that grow wild in the USA. Two of those species are presented here, and this non-native plant is now so widespread that Moth Mullein is found in every state except Alaska and Wyoming, and Common Mullein is found in every state in the union. You’ve seen these, I’m sure, along the roadsides where they are typically found with both of these species growing several feet tall, each with a tall stem terminating in a spike of small, showy yellow flowers.
You look at this photo and you think “Morning Glory.” And you’re right. It is a member of the morning-glory family – Convolvulaceae – as well as the core morning-glory genus – Ipomoea. But the common name “Wild Potato Vine” tells us a little more about the plant.
Starting in late spring, my grandkids start running around looking for honeysuckle blossoms. They learned early on that if they wait until the white blossoms age until they just start turning yellow, they can pick the blossom, pull the base of the blossom off and pull the stigma through the corolla tube, and they’ll be rewarded with a delicious drop of nectar as a treat.
“Maypop” is how we knew this plant that grew on a south-facing slope amidst blackberry bushes on our dairy farm in Rutherford County, North Carolina. That’s something of an odd name, since, at least in our area, the plant typically flowers in late June or early July. Based on my experience popping the hollow unripened fruit pod as a child on that North Carolina farm, my guess is that they may pop or they may not, depending on the skill of your technique and the maturity of the fruit – thus “maypop.”
But the origin of the name “Passion Flower” or “Passion Fruit” is more interesting, and is worth retelling here.
One of the southeast’s early summer wildflowers is Tennessee’s official state wildflower: Passiflora incarnata, the purple passion flower. The fruit of this species also gives this plant one of its other common names – Maypop.
Known to the Cherokees, according to Wikipedia, as “Ocoee,” this plant would then be the namesake for one of the southeast’s most famous whitewater rivers, the Ocoee River of southeastern Tennessee.