Devil’s pumpkin - Passiflora suberosa

 

Passiflora suberosa also known as Devil's Pumpkin and Indigo Berry is a vine belonging to the granadilla family Passifloraceae that is native to the Americas, its range stretches from Florida and the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas in the United States, south through Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean to South America.

Devil’s pumpkin - Passiflora suberosa   Devil’s pumpkin - Passiflora suberosa

 This innocent looking plant, also known as the corky barked passion flower, is a dangerously invasive weed. It has tiny flowers which self pollinate readily just with the wind, although they are also very attractive to butterflies & wasps. The fruit transitions from green to indigo, purple and, lastly, black as it ripens. The fruit are eaten and the seeds dispersed by birds and monkeys. Don’t get tricked by this seemingly innocuous little plant, although Passiflora suberosa has been grown in the gardens of collectors and butterfly gardens, Passiflora suberosa is really an aggressive weed, with the ability for fast growth, and it can smother other plants within a short period of time. In many parts of the world Devil’s pumpkin is a garden escapee which has naturalised in open forest and disturbed land where it has become a troublesome weed in Melanesia, Hawaii, and now spreading in SE Asia, India and South Africa.  Passiflora suberosa is a sun-loving vine which winds it's tendrils around the stems and leaves of the host plant in order to climb up to the top of the plant in order to get exposed to the maximum sunlight, often smothering the host plant in the process. It does best in the sub-canopy where it smothers shrubs, small trees and the ground layer. In order to obtain the maximum sunlight it deprives the host plant of sunlight.

The leaves, stems and the green fruit are poisonous.

 

Devil’s pumpkin has been declared a Category 1 invasive weed in South Africa.

In terms of the Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act (No 43 of 1983) land occupiers and owners are legally obliged to control Passiflora suberosa.  

 

Control Measures 

The most reliable method of control for small specimens is to hand pull them when the soil is moist care must be taken not to break the stem above the roots, or the plant will regenerate. For larger plants cut the vine just above ground level and paint the entire stump with 1 part glyphosate (Roundup®) to 2 parts water (e.g. 100 ml in 200 ml water). 

 

Michael Hickman 

28.04.12