Stinking Passion Vine – Passiflora foetida
Habit: Climbing vine with white to purple flowers and fleshy yellow/orange fruit.
Spread: Birds and mammals eat the fruit and spread the seeds. Stems also take root and grow.
Passion vine fruits mature from green to yellow/orange. They are quite fleshy and contain many tiny black seeds. I have heard of some people eating them. They are quite bitter and when unripe are reported to be very poisonous. Birds and probably bats eat the fruit and readily distribute the seeds around water places and at the bottom of large roosting trees.
Passion vine appears to flower and fruit opportunistically after rainfall or in moist areas. It also spreads readily and rapidly through vegetative growth. Passion vine is often considered a naturalised and relatively harmless weed, however its invasion into sensitive ecosystems can result in serious degredation (see pictures and information below).
Passion vine dominates and smothers native vegetation. This photo taken at Windjana Gorge in May.
Passion vine also increases the risk of hotter and more frequent fires. After smothering native vegetation, it often drys out in the late dry season as in this photo, taken in November at Hidden Valley near Broome. A fire would be easily ignited and sustained in this area at this time. This would enable the fire to spread into contiguous monsoon vine thicket vegetation- a fire sensitve and threatened ecological community. Distirbance through fire also assists the spread of this plant during the ecosystem's recovery period.