Banana passionfruit: tasty but troublesome…
Banana passionfruit (Passiflora tripartita and tarminiana) is a plant that is not common in Hamilton City,and it is best it stays that way. Banana passionfruit is in the Waikato Regional Pest Management Plan (RPMP) as a ‘progressive containment’ pest plant, meaning landowners must control any banana passionfruit on their property.
Banana passionfruit is a vigorous shambling, smothering plant that climbs up to 10 metres high by means of its tendrils. It can smother trees, reducing native biodiversity, and its fruit can encourage pest animals such as rats. Banana passionfruit grows rapidly from seed, maturing after one year, and lives for 15-20 years. It produces large sweet fruit containing many seeds that are dispersed by a variety of native and introduced birds, as well as pests such as possums, rats and pigs. Banana passionfruit is widespread throughout New Zealand, being found in Northland, Greater Wellington and the West Coast.
Both species produce pink tubular flowers throughout the year. The length of the floral tube is shorter, and the flower lobes longer. These flowers develop into an oval fruit, green at first, then turning yellow or orange when ripe. The fruit contains sweet edible orange pulp. The leaves are glossy green with three toothed lobes 5-14cm long.
There are many related species to banana passionfruit which are common. This includes blue passion flower (Passiflora caerulea) which has five lobed leaves and non-tubular whitish-purple flowers. Unlike banana passionfruit, blue passion flower is not a ‘progressive containment’ pest plant, but both plants are banned from propagation and sale.
If you see banana passionfruit, or need help with control, please don’t hesitate in contacting Waikato Regional Council’s Biosecurity Pest Plants team on 0800 BIOSEC (0800 246 732), or Weedbusters at www.weedbusters.org.nz.