Kew Bulletin

, Volume 66, Issue 1, pp 149–153

Passiflora cristalina, a striking new species of Passiflora (Passifloraceae) from Mato Grosso, Brazil


  • John Vanderplank
    • National Collection of Passiflora
    • Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

DOI: 10.1007/s12225-011-9255-2

Cite this article as:
Vanderplank, J. & Zappi, D. Kew Bull (2011) 66: 149. doi:10.1007/s12225-011-9255-2


A new red-flowered species of Passiflora, P. cristalina Vanderpl. & Zappi, is described from the tropical rainforest of Mato Grosso, Brazil. The species is illustrated and its affinities with related species are discussed, and a key to the species of supersect. Distephana to which it belongs is provided.

Key words

Amazon forestconservation statusDistephananew taxonParque Estadual CristalinoPassiflora supersect.seed morphology


Uma nova espécie de Passiflora com flores vistosas e vermelhas, P. cristalina Vanderpl. & Zappi, foi descoberta na floresta amazônica ao norte do Mato Grosso. A espécie é ilustrada e suas afinidades com espécies relacionadas da supersect. Distephana são discutidas e uma chave de identificação é apresentada.


Passiflora L. is a genus of mostly perennial climbers, a few small trees, shrubs, herbaceous vines and even annuals, comprising between 521 (Feuillet & MacDougal 2004) and 537 species (Vanderplank 2007), currently dilimited by Feuillet & MacDougal (2004) into four subenera: P. subg. Astrophea (DC.) Mast., P. subg. Deidamioides (Harms) Killip, P. subg. Decaloba (DC.) Mast. and P. subg. Passiflora, of which subgenus Passiflora is the largest, with 252 species. This subgenus is endemic to the New World, and comprises mainly species with showy flowers. Killip (1938) placed virtually all the species with large red flowers found in lowland tropical forests in subgenus Distephana (Juss.) Killip, alongside P. coccinea Aubl. and P. vitifolia Kunth. However, Feuillet & MacDougal (2004) do not recognise Distephana at subgeneric level, accepting it as a supersection, along with Passiflora supersect. Coccinea Feuillet & J. M. MacDougal.

The new species described here belongs to Passiflora supersect. Distephana (DC.) Feuillet & J. M. MacDougal as discussed below. It was discovered while undertaking a detailed vegetation survey of the Parque Estadual Cristalino, in north-eastern Mato Grosso, which is presently affected by agriculture, logging and land settlement. The results of this research are currently being used by local government agencies to develop a management plan for this protected area. The vegetation in this part of the Amazon is very poorly known, and the survey represented a major step forward in scientific knowledge. Over 3500 collections were made during the visit, which are currently being identified at Kew and the University of São Paulo, including at least five species new to science. The other species of Passiflora recorded within the area are: P. acuminata DC., P. candollei Triana & Planch., P. foetida L., P. laurifolia L., P. miniata Vanderpl., P. misera Kunth, P. nitida Kunth, P. oerstedii Mast., P. subpeltata Ortega, P. cf. trifasciata Lem. and P. vespertilio L. The identification work and the key provided below were based on information published by Killip (1938), Killip & Cuatrecasas (1960), Masters (1872) and Steyermark & Maguire (1967) and herbarium records.

Passiflora cristalinaVanderpl. & Zappisp. nov. a species supersectio Distephana pedunculis rubris 10 – 17 cm longis, tubo urceolato 10 – 11 ×× 7 – 8 mm, sepalis eglandulosis, coronae filamentis externis liberis; fructibus obovatis, atro-viridibus chloroleucis variegatis; seminibus ovatis, reticulatis distincta. Typus: Brazil, Mato Grosso, Mun. Novo Mundo, Parque Estadual Cristalino, limite Nordeste do Parque, a oeste do Olho da Xuxa, 21 Aug. 2008, 9°30′29.36″S, 55°10′50.73″W, Zappi, Milliken, Sasaki, Frisby, Henicka, Reis, Pena, Phillipsen & Piva 1340 (holotypus SPF!; isotypi HERBAM!, K!).

Vine scrambling on forest edge, up to 4 m high, 8 cm diam. at base, climbing by tendrils, glabrous. Stems terete, striate, green to reddish brown; tendrils terete, strong, pink or pale pink, 10 – 20 cm long; stipules linear-subulate, very soon caducous. Leaves with petioles 8 – 12 mm long, twisted on pendent stems, with two adjacent elliptic, sessile, nectar-bearing glands on the adaxial surface 1.5 – 3 mm from base; blades ovate to narrowly ovate, coriaceous, abaxial surface shiny, adaxial surface glaucous with red veining, 7 – 8.8 ×× 3.1 – 4 cm, margin shallowly crenate, acute at apex, rounded to slightly cordate at base, submarginal glands absent. Peduncles axillary, solitary, terete to apically winged, dull red, 10 – 17 cm long; bracts 3, inserted at the apex of the peduncle, free, lanceolate to awned, green, deciduous, 3 – 5 mm long with two prominent olive green glands at base; pedicel terete, 2 – 3 mm long. Flowers held erect before and during anthesis, becoming pendulous as the ovary develops; floral-tube urceolate, glabrous, bright red, 10 – 11 mm long, 7 – 8 mm diam. at widest point; calyx-lobes linear-oblong, 32 – 34 ×× 8.5 – 9 mm, bright red within, dull red outside, weakly keeled with sepal awn 2 – 3 mm long, corolla-lobes narrowly oblong, 31 ×× 7 – 8 mm, bright red on both surfaces; corona filaments in two series, outer series completely free, 12 – 13 mm long, pink or red, inner series 10 mm long, lower \(\raise0.5ex\hbox{$\scriptstyle 1$}\kern-0.1em/\kern-0.15em\lower0.25ex\hbox{$\scriptstyle 2$} - \raise0.5ex\hbox{$\scriptstyle 2$}\kern-0.1em/\kern-0.15em\lower0.25ex\hbox{$\scriptstyle 3$}\) membranous and fused, with distal part free, operculum suberect, 3 mm long, inserted on the lower half of the floral-tube, curved, base membranaceous, distally filamentose; androgynophore erect, base angular, hexagonal, 3.7 – 4 cm long; filaments 5 mm long; anthers green above, displayed 2.4 – 2.8 cm above the corona; ovary obovate, 4 – 5 mm long, pale green; styles pink or red, 2.5 – 3 mm long, stigmas olive green. Fruit obovate, pendulous, 4.5 ×× 2.7 – 3 cm, deep green, richly variegated with pale green blotches in six well defined sections; exocarp strong, brittle, 0.3 mm thick; mesocarp densely spongy 2 – 3 mm thick; endocarp a thin translucent white bag; funicles scattered in three wide, poorly defined rows, 3 mm long. Seed symmetrical or slightly asymmetrical, ovoid-lenticular, 6 – 6.5 ×× 3.5 – 4 ×× 1 – 1.5 mm, margin crenate, base acute, apex rounded with obtuse triangular chalazal beak, reticulated surface on both sides. Figs 1, 2 and 3.
Fig. 1

Passiflora cristalina. A habit with closed flower; B petiole with two basal glands; C open flower; D dissected flower; E detail of calyx-tube and bracts. From Zappi et al. 1340. drawn by Daniela Zappi and inked in by Linda Gurr.
Fig. 2

Variegated fruits of Passiflora cristalina.
Fig. 3

Seeds of Passiflora glandulosa (left), P. cristalina (centre) and P. coccinea (right).

Distribution. Known only from the type collection made in the Parque Estadual Cristalino, Mato Grosso State, Brazil,

Specimen Examined. Brazil. Mato Grosso: Mun. Novo Mundo, Parque Estadual Cristalino, limite Nordeste do Parque, a oeste do Olho da Xuxa, 21 Aug. 2008, 9°30′29.36″S, 55°10′50.73″W, Zappi, Milliken, Sasaki, Frisby, Henicka, Reis, Pena, Phillipsen & Piva 1340 (holotype SPF!; isotypes HERBAM!, K!).

Habitat. Growing at the margin of disturbed Amazon rainforest, on sandy soil; 300 – 350 m.

Conservation Status. (IUCN 2001): Data Deficient (DD). Passiflora cristalina was found in the southern limits of the Amazon, where large tracts of forest are being cleared out in the NE limits of the Parque Estadual Cristalino through settlements and transformed into agricultural land, therefore the species, which may be locally common but is only known in that area, could become Endangered in a very short time period. The data available, however, do not allow for a IUCN category to be assigned to this species and it remains as Data Deficient for the time being.

Phenology. Flowering and fruiting during the dry season, in August.

Etymology. The specific epithet refers to the local blackwater river (Rio Cristalino) that gives its name to the protected area where the plant is found, the Parque Estadual Cristalino.

Notes.Passiflora cristalina belongs to P. supersect. Distephana alongside P. amicorum Wurdack, P. bomareifolia Steyerm & Maguire, P. ernesti Harms, P. variolata Poepp. & Endl. and P. glandulosa Cav. due to its simple, entire, ovate leaves, and two series of corona filaments, the inner series being membranous for more than half of its length (see a description of P. supersect. Distephana and a key to all its species at the end of paper). Although P. cristalina is a highly distinctive species because of its long peduncles and variegated fruit (Fig. 2), it is closely related to P. glandulosa, from the Guianas and Amazon basin in leaf type and colour and in its large bright red flowers of similar appearance (see key below for differences between species). For these reasons P. cristalina may well have been overlooked in the field, especially when not seen in flower or fruit. This possibility has influenced the decision to assess the conservation of the species as Data Deficient.

Close examination of seeds of Passiflora cristalina and P. glandulosa (Fig. 3) has also contributed information regarding the distinct nature of the species. P. cristalina seeds are regular, ovoid-lenticular, reticulate, differing from P. glandulosa seeds, which are irregular in outline, tear-shaped and have a granular (not reticulate) surface. In fact, the seed-morphology of P. cristalina is closer to that of P. coccinea (Fig. 3) placed by Feuillet & MacDougal (2004) in a supersect. of the same name (P. coccinea seeds: symmetrical or very slightly asymmetrical, ovoid-lenticular, with narrow crenate margin, acute at base, rounded at apex with a depressed, triangular chalazal beak, sides slightly convex with reticulate-foveolate surface, testa chocolate brown, c. 5 ×× 2.7 ×× 1 mm.). Species in P. supersect. Coccinea, however, have showy, serrate bracts, a floral-tube longer than 1.5 cm and often lobed leaves.

In lowland tropical forests the flowering of many Passiflora species is erratic, not seasonal, or annual, some may not flower for years. Flowering seems to be initiated by prolonged dry periods and changes in temperature; there may also be other factors that trigger the blooming of these species like light intensity and day length. Many Passiflora species are rarely observed flowering because the flowers are displayed at the top of the canopy; records of their flowers come from the rare occasions when they are observed flowering on low branches at the forest edge, often alongside a new road or track. However, P. glandulosa is one of the few species that flowers in low light conditions often one or two metres above ground level, sometimes in thick forest where the light conditions are poor. If P. cristalina is a species that needs a high light intensity to initiate flowering and normally flowers at the top of the canopy, it must be considered fortuitous that it was discovered at the forest edge.

Passiflora supersect. Distephana (DC.) Feuillet & J. M. MacDougal (2004: 38).

Herbaceous or woody vines; leaves simple, not lobed, glabrous, margin entire, sometimes crenate; bracts small, free, glandular at margin; floral-tube short-cylindric or urceolate, shorter than 1.5 cm; corona filaments in two series, the inner series tubular or membranous towards the base. Type: P. glandulosa Cav.

Distribution. Northern and central South America, Amazon basin.

Key to species of Passiflora supersect. Distephana

  • 1. Petals white (Venezuela)

    P. amicorum

  • 1. Petals pink, rose, bright red or orange red


  • 2. Outer corona filaments all free


  • 2. Outer corona filaments fused for more than half of their length


  • 3. Floral-tube cylindric, 15 – 25 mm long; peduncles 1 – 8 cm long (Guianas, Amazonian Brazil)

    P. glandulosa

  • 3. Floral-tube urceolate to campanulate, 10 – 11 mm long; peduncles 10 – 17 cm long (Mato Grosso, Brazil). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

    P. cristalina

  • 4. Leaves narrow, oblong lanceolate ≥ 5 times longer than wide (Venezuela)

    P. bomareifolia

  • 4. Leaves obovate, ≤ 3 times longer than wide


  • 5. Floral-tube 3 – 5 mm long, peduncles 1 – 4 cm long (Brazil)

    P. ernestii

  • 5. Floral-tube 7 mm long, peduncles 3 – 8 cm long (French Guiana, Amazonian Brazil, Colombia, Peru and Venezuela)

    P. variolata


The authors would like to thank Renato de Mello-Silva and Denise Sasaki, from Universidade de São Paulo, for coordinating the fieldwork, the Brazilian Research Council (CNPq) for the collection permit (EXC 13/07), Renato Farias and Gracieli Henicka and José Piva, from Fundação Ecológica Cristalino, for coordinating the work of various partners within the project, Célia Soares, Curator of HERBAM (Herbário da Amazônia Oriental), and Eliane Fachim and Eliane Pena, from the local government environmental agency (SEMA –MT), who kindly provided logistic support during fieldwork.

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© The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew 2011