These are pictures I took a while back doing research at the University of South Carolina in the Congaree National Park. This beautiful flower is called the Purple Passionflower (Passifloria incarnata). The Native Americans called it “ocoee.” The Ocoee River in Tennessee, famous for its whitewater rapids (the 1996 Summer Olympics used it for their whitewater kayaking events), is named after this remarkable plant. It is also the state wildflower of Tennessee, which is where my wife was born and raised. This flower grows naturally as a vine all over the Southeast. Around South Carolina we see these flowers start blooming in June and bloom throughout the summer.
As well as seeing these growing in the wild, they are great native plants to have in a flowerbed. Like all native plants, they are well adapted to the local climate and soil conditions. They will come back every year. They are also well adapted to the local insects and birds and will actually attract some. They are the main larval food source for many butterfly species, mainly the Gulf Fritillary (which you can read about in one of my earlier posts). They do produce a fruit that will attract birds that use them as a food source. This plant has been historically used in a tea to treat anxiety and insomnia. If you ask me, just being lucky enough to see this beautiful flower will lower my anxiety level.