Passiflora menispermifolia

P. menispermifolia is found mainly in second growth areas and on the edges of clearings. The leaves of this species are relatively thick, and are covered with long fine hairs. The petioles bear long stalked nectaries very much like the nectaries of the closely related P. oerstedii, and are probably visited by parasitic hymentoptera such as Trichogramma or scelionid egg parasitoids. P. menispermifolia and P. oerstedii are closely related and belong to Passiflora section Granadillastrum. Range: Nicaragua to Peru, Bolivia and western Brazil. Widespread in Costa Rica in wet forest from 0 to 1200 meters elevation, along roads in secondary forest.

Unlike the closely related P. oerstedii, P. menispermifolia foliage is consistently highly cyanognic when crushed (2-10 μM HCN per gram plant tissue), except for some very old leaves. According to Engler 2007, P. menispermifolia produces aliphatic cyanogens, even though its relative P. oerstedii produces the simple monoglycoside cyanogen Gynocardin. It may also produce small amounts of sulfated cyanogens. P. menispermifolia was also found to contain significant amounts of potentially toxic C-glycosylflavonoids (Ulubelen et al 1981). See Appendix 2, charts A21, A22 and A23 for cyanogenesis measurements.

H. cydno, and H. melpomene lay their eggs on P. menispermifolia at La Selva, the former species on the tendril tips and the latter on the shoot tips among the fuzzy incipient leaves or on the leaf blade. The latter behavior may protect the eggs by hiding them from the egg parasitoids, as has been proposed for P. oerstedii (Smiley 1978). Feeding trials at La Selva indicate that H. hecale larvae die when placed on P. menispermifolia. Another species of Heliconiini (Eueides aliphera) lays her eggs on mature leaf blades of this plant as well as P. costaricensis. The larvae hatch and feed on the under side of the leaves, growing into a caterpillar with multiple transverse bands around each abdominal segment (one blue band and 2 yellow bands, separated by black lines, per segment). Remarkably, the dioptid moth Josia sp. has very similar larvae with blue and yellow bands. At La Selva, Josia larvae may be found rarely, on P. costaricensis only.

I have not yet observed any flea beetles feeding on this species. In feeding trials, flea beetle larvae seem unable to walk on the hairs (both Pedilia "red" and Ptocadica "red"). Also in these trials, I have observed some feeding on the stipules, which have fewer hairs than the other foliage. I have seen some flea beetle feeding damage, but only tiny amounts.


Lobed leaves seldom show signs of herbivory
leaves are fuzzy with long hairs (2-3 mm)
stalked nectar glands on petiole, like P. oerstedii
P. menispermifolia flower with Euglossa Orchid bee gleaning filaments
Fruits on vine Unripe fruit section. Ripe fruits are good to eat.
Small 5th instar Euides aliphera larva 5th instar Euides aliphera larva
nymphal Anisoscelis bug on stem Josia moth (family Dioptidae) larvae feeding on P. costaricensis