Book Review

by John Vanderplank

MIT Press, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02142, 1996.
Second edition. $40 in hard cover, 224 pages, ISBN 0-262-22052-0.
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Reviewed by Benjamin F. Kuo (5/2000)

For anyone with a passion for passiflora, Passion Flowers is a must-have. Packed with full-color photographs and drawings, detailed information about species, and diagrams of key distinguishing features of various passiflora, this publication offers a great resource for anyone with an interest in growing passion fruit and flowers.

Vanderplank packs an amazing amount of information into his book. Its tables enable you to identify species of passion fruit by leaf shape, size, flower size, color of petals and filaments. It lists butterfly species and the corresponding passiflora plants they prefer. It presents information on a large number of species, including the minimum temperatures tolerated; descriptions of fruit and taste; and best methods of propagation.

Passion Flowers includes a section on hybridization of passiflora, including techniques. It also describes methods of propagation that are most successful. And it covers much more.

Although Vanderplank doesn’t cover all of the 460 recorded wild passiflora species or the 300 named varieties or cultivars, he discusses a good number of the passiflora that are generally available. Photographs of many species and their fruits are included. I enjoyed the wide variety of forms and colors he captured in his photographs: from the bright red of P. coccinea aubl. (Red Granadilla), found in Guyana and Guadeloupe; to the interesting yellow/orange filaments of P. holosericea L., found from Mexico to Cuba; and dozens of others as well.

I especially liked the section on cultivation, which includes growing passiflora as houseplants; and the list of the 20 species he recommends as good choices for fruit--only four or five of which are actually grown commercially.

If you’re into passion fruit, there may be no better publication than this one to own and use as a reference. The beautiful photographs and drawings alone make Passion Flowers a book you wouldn’t be ashamed to display on your coffee table.


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