Incarnata expedition of doom
The first passion flower I ever saw--15 years or so ago--was a wild incarnata growing on an exotic livestock farm my family owns. I had no clue what it was, but thought it beautiful. I also figured it was a swamp plant, since it was growing near an irrigation canal. Since then I've realized that I saw a lot of fruiting plants as well, but I didn't recognize what they were at the time.
So over the weekend I had a chance to go back there for the first time in two years or so. And I wanted to try and collect some plants for my yard and also for trade.
Unfortunately, I could not find any growing on the flat fields where I first encountered them. That was disappointing, but not unexpected, since those fields have been plowed and shredded a number of times over the years. I did see a number of vigorously growing vines--6 feet tall or more--but they were all on the opposite of an 8 foot tall game-proof fence, along the berm containing the irrigation canal. Along with all manner of other vines and thick brush. None of it easily accessible.
I did manage to climb the fence at one point where an old telephone pole buttressing the fence offered... well, not an easy way over, but maybe a passable one. Imagine my surprise (and dismay) when hordes of fire ants began pouring out of the pole. Not the ground around it, but the pole itself!
I made it over with minimal stings, amazingly enough. But the fun was just beginning. Anyone in the southern U.S. should be familiar with dewberries, a tart, delicious wild relative of the blackberry. They grow rampant, and have insanely thorny canes. There were a lot here that I had to wade through to reach the "accessible" incarnata I'd spotted. There was also another vine, one that had tri-lobed, variegated leaves. Not entirely un-passiflora-like. Except this wicked thing was everywhere, and had big, evil thorns. I started wishing for more dewberries when I hit those woody, thorny vines. And, as fate would have it, those were wrapped all around the lone incarnata I was striving for.
So what should've been a simple, quick dig turned into an ordeal of disentangling Thorn vines, dewberry canes and random brush branches from this one, slender passion vine. That poor incarnata took quite a beating, I'm afraid. I finally got a good, 8-inch C-shaped section of the roots up. Sweaty, hot (mercury hit the high 80s yesterday) with my arms and legs really ripped up pretty convincingly, I started back through the gauntlet of fire ants with my prize.
It was then I realized my glasses were missing. I only use them for distance viewing, and had put them in my shirt pocket once I'd started in on my quarry. Looking back through the sea of blood-thirsty, vampiric plants, I saw the tell-tale glint of light against glass right there at the hole. They'd fallen out when I bent down to lift out the incarnata roots. *sigh*
The long and short of it is that I got one good, rooted plant with enough of the vine surviving to pot up with a high degree of confidence. I was also able to pull up another vine growing close to the fence and get a little bit of the root (which I coated with hormone and potted up) plus the tops of two other vines which I've divided up, dipped in rooting hormone and potted to try and get some good rooted cuttings. Out of all that effort, these are my results:
Belatedly, I discovered that one of the vines was setting flower buds like crazy. Had to pick all of those off. My track record with cuttings has been inconsistent, with failures outnumbering my successes by a 2:1 margin but I'm hoping to get some good results out of these. I've got 14 different cuttings and/or roots going here, and hopefully I'll have plenty of extra for trade in a few months.
I know the effort to get these was way disproportionate for the plants' value--especially when you can easily get them from eBay or many nurseries. But hey, this was the plant that sparked my love for passis, so it became a personal mission. :-)