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Passiflora franciscoi, a new family member of the passionfruit and the passion flower

The species discovered in the Colombian Orinoquía region grows like a climbing plant between 0 and 500 meters (1,640 ft) above sea level, and very close to water streams.

Palmira, 18 de mayo de 2016Agencia de Noticias –

The missionaries that first came to America called Passiflora, “The flower of passion”, in reference to the Passion of Christ. Photo: Francisco Antonio Castro Lima.

The new species was discovered at Orinoquía.

Passiflora franciscoi is in the family of the passionflower and passion fruit.

Passiflora franciscoi is food for cachamas and yamús.

As other fruits of the family such as passion fruit, passionflower, yellow passionfruit or banana passionfruit this new species could be promising at the nutritional, productive and ornamental level.

The research project was carried out at UNal- Palmira

Its name pays homage to Universidad Nacional de Colombia (UNal) in Palmira, Botanist and Biologist Francisco Antonio Castro Lima, who discovered it in 2001 during a journey through water streams of the municipality of Paz de Ariporo (Province of Casanare). 

The bloomed branches of a plant that was suspended over surface called his attention. “It was a vine with extremely white tendrils and flowers and orange crown filaments that captivated me,” said Castro. He then took two branches and flowers, placed them in newspaper and took them to the Universidad de los Llanos Herbarium. 

After 15 years and during a review of the current status of passiflora’s (or passion flowers) of the Astrophea subgenus in the main herbariums of Colombia, experts of the Neotropical Genetic Resources Research Group (GIRFIN, for its Spanish acronym) and Orchids, Ecology and Plant Systematics Group, found Castro’s samples and after a taxonomic analysis they concluded it was a new species. 

Passiflora franciscoi thrives is heights between 0 and 500 meters (1,640 ft) above sea level (asl) a feature which makes it different from other family members as all others grow above 1,500 (4,920) asl. 

Another element which drew attention to researchers Adriana Carolina Aguirre Morales and Miguel MacGyver Bonilla Morales is that the new Passiflora thrived near water sources, when normally species of the Astrophea generally thrive in dry environments. 

Furthermore Professor and GIRFIN member Creuci Maria Caetano said the plant can measure up to 8 meters (26 ft) high. When it is young it is green but when it reaches maturity is turns brownish and has tendrils to help it attach to trees and search for the sun. 

Its fruit is sweet, similar to the conch apple or Passiflora maliformis (native to the Province of Huila) and preferred by fish such as cachama and the yamú, which eat it when it falls and floats on the water. 

Study potential 

For the taxonomic description of Passiflora franciscoi, UNal-Palmira researchers used P. candida and P. sclerophylla, as references, species not registered in Colombia, but morphologically similar. 

Afterwards they reviewed the registrars of 17 Colombian herbariums and 17 international virtual collections. In their search they took into account aspects such as the collector, the date of collection, preservation status and other vegetative and floral morphological features, as well as ecosystemic and geographic elements. 

The discovered that although the three species has similar traits in the form of their elliptic or tear like leaves, Passiflora franciscoi has thinner and meatier leaves. “The apex (leaf end) does not a have a defined form. Also the peduncle is longer than in other species,” said Aguirre y Bonilla. 

Generally P. candida and P. sclerophylla have six, seven or eight series of filaments which make up a flower, but this new species has only two and the crown is foldable. 

According to the researchers there are just a few references to Passiflora franciscoi, therefore this is an interesting opportunity to become cognizant of it ecological status as other fruits of the family such as passion fruit, passionflower, yellow passionfruit or banana passionfruit. This new species could be promising at the nutritional, productive and ornamental level. It could also provide compounds such as the passiflorines, which other species provide the industry to manufacture antidepressants and tranquilizers. 

Read the article in its entirety in Spanish at UN Periódico.

(Por: Fin/UNP-HAA/DMH/APBL
)
N.° 721

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