20 The Oy New, Friy. Ju 17.1998
St. Croix's native passion fruit now rare in wilds
To some extent, the flora of
noathwce SL Croix still holds true
to how it looked at the turn of the
The sugarcane cultivated on
slopes, valleys and hillsides i lng
gone. The lands now are dotted
with patch of forests, once pasture-
land and old ruins from slavery
days. But northwest St. Croix is
still a place of adventure and
One day, as a group of students
hiked along the old slave p to
Sweet Bottom Bay, they smelled
an unusual fragrance in the air. To
my surprise, the smell came from a
plant that once grew abundantly
throughout St. Croix's forests but
now is uncommon in the wild.
The plat, locally known a beli
apple. is in the passion fruit family
(Passiloraces ). It Is native to the
Virgin Islands, some puts of the
Wes Indis and South America.
This woody vine climbs up
trees for support. The leaves are
shiny evergreen and leathery. Dur-
ing spring, the flower blossoms
give off a perfume smell. The
flowers only last for a day. The
fruit is oblong and turn orange
when it matures. It looks just like a
yellow passioa fruit.
The bell apple has external and
internal medicinal uses. The leaves
are used for bush baths, and are
also besed and costed with grease
and appliedon sprains.
Roots are used medicinally for
intestiu worms in children.
When the stem is dry, it has
been used foremaking bases.
The fruits are used in drinks.
Old folks say the drink is sweeter
than the non-astive yellow passion
Pop vine or pop bush was
another plant the students saw
along the path. Te pop bosh also
is in the passion fruit family. It is
native to the Virgin Ilands, West
Indies, Peru, Argentina and the
Old World tropics.
This vine plant climbs on trees
to support itself. The passion fruit-
like flowers grow at the base of the
leaf stems. Fruits are small like
moth balls with a bir-like costing
When fruits are ripe, they turns
orange-yellow, and are enjoyed
especially by children.
Some consider the pop bush's
strong odor unpleisast, but the
plant is still ed in bush baths, to
treat prickly heat and to relieve
dacy and bladder Inflmmtioo.
The bell apple and pop bush
once grew profsely in the Virgin
islands. Today, the Virgin slands'
most well-known o frit -
of the 500 passion fruit species
worldwide is the yellow passion
The passion fruit is called by
many names. In French, it is
grensdile or couzoo. The purple
passion fruit may be called red,
purple or black granadilla. In
Jamlca, it is mountain sweet cap;
in ihwii, likol. The yellow pas-
$ion fit is called golden passion
fruit in Australis, and here in the
Virgin Islands It's just passion
The yellow passion fruit is
believed to be native to the Am&-
zoo basin in BraziL
The purple passion fruit Is
native to Paraguay. northern
Argentina and souther Brazil.
Scientists hve bred many vai-
sties of passion fruit to modify
sweetness, skin thickness, seeds.
color, flavor, disease resistance or
adaptability. But wild passion
fruits have an advantage over com-
mercial varieties, for they resist
many wild pests and diseases.
Commercn passion fruits need to
be wtered, fertlze nd sprayed
with petcides for the pan to pro-
dace the best possible fruits.
The problem is, scientists still
have to return and harvest wild
species of passion fruit to breed
with the commercial passion fruit
to rast certain pests. This is why
it is Important to protect the forest.
Tils aotle relects he view of
Olare Davs, a St. Croix eiolo-
gis, actiis and writer wo as a
er of science degree as ra ge
management aindforestry ecokiy.