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Passiflora Supersect. Disemma

Passiflora Supersect. Disemma (Labill.) J. M. MacDougal & Feuillet. Passiflora 13(2): 37. 2003 [2004]. Basionym: Disemma Labill. Sert. Austro-Caledon. 78, t. 79. 1824 [1825].


Passiflora herbertiana
Passiflora herbertiana from Australia, with tube-shaped operculum that shields the nectary. Photo: S. Krosnick
Passiflora papilio
Passiflora papilio with a strongly truncated leaf reminiscent of butterfly wings. Note raised nectaries on surface of leaf and auriculate petiolar glands. Photo:Wang Hong


Passiflora moluccana
Passiflora moluccana is the only species in the genus that has opposite to sub-opposite leaves. Photo: S. Krosnick
Passiflora perakensis
Passiflora perakensis, from Thailand and Malaysia, has sweetly scented flowers. This species and two of its closest relatives are distinctive in having the ovary entirely enclosed by the staminal filaments. Photo: S. Krosnick
Slender climbers to canopy lianas, glabrous to densely pubescent; stems terete to 5-angled. Stipules 0.25–4.0 mm long, 0.25–1.0 mm wide, setaceous to lanceolate, the margins entire; petioles 0.5–9.0 cm long, two glands often present on petiole, short cylindric, discoid, or papillate, sessile to stipitate, laminas 3.0–24.0 cm long, 1.0–17.0 cm wide, ovate, rhombiform, suborbicular, lanceolate, linear, cordate, truncate, or trilobed, apices or lobes acute, obtuse, or obcordate, margins entire; laminar nectaries (0–) 2–50 (–∞), scattered, paired, or arranged in a line on either side of the midvein. Tendrils green to reddish-purple; inflorescences branched from the first through the fourth order; peduncle absent, pedicels 0.4–7.0 cm long, with an articulation 0.2–4.5 cm from the base, higher order branches absent or 1.0–15.0 mm long; inflorescence bracts 0.5–4.0 (–12.0) mm long, 0.25–1.0 mm wide, linear. Flower buds oblong-conical, the largest buds 0.4–4.5 cm long, 0.3–2.0 cm wide; flowers born upwards or pendulous; hypanthium 2.0–18.0 mm in diam.; sepals 0.5–5.0 cm long, 0.2–1.2 cm wide, lanceolate, plain or keeled the entire length or only apically, acute at apex, glabrous to pubescent, abaxial surface red, orange, yellow, green, white, or purple-brown; petals 0.4–2.5 cm long, 0.2–1.0 cm wide, glabrous, narrowly oblong-lanceolate, acute at apex, both surfaces yellow, white, red, or pink; coronal filaments in 1–2 series, free, or fused into a tube (one species), the series 1.5–17.0 mm long, filiform (or fused), erect or parallel to the petals at anthesis, deep white, red, or green throughout, the basal portions brown (three species), apices yellow (one species), capitate or thickened; operculum 0.1–2.0 cm tall, membranous, plicate, erect or incurved towards the androgynophore, the upper margin fimbriate, yellow-green, brownish, or deep purple; limen present or absent, green or purple-brown; nectar ring 1.0–8.0 mm wide, annular or covering the base of the floral tube, yellow or green, unlobed or 5-lobed; stamens 5 (–8), staminal filaments connate 1.5–11.0 mm along androgynophore, green, purple-brown, or white, the free portions 2.5–10.0 mm long; anthers 2.0–12.0 mm long, 0.2–4.0 mm wide, yellow; ovary 1.0–10.0 mm long, 1.0–5.0 mm wide, elliptic to ovoid, pubescent or glabrous, sessile or stipitate for 1.0–3.0 (–7.0) mm on the androgynophore, light green; styles (2–) 3 (–4), 2.0–13.0 mm long excluding stigmas; stigmas ovoid, 0.5–3.0 mm in diam. Fruit 1.5–5.0 cm long in diam., globose to ovoid, green, blue, purple or blackish at maturity, smooth or papillate, glabrous or pubescent; arils creamy white or orange. Seeds 1.0–5.0 mm long, 1.0–4.0 mm wide, 1.0–2.0 mm thick, obovate, black, foveate or transverse sulcate, with 5–40 (–90) foveae or sulcae per side.

Key to the Sections of Passiflora Subgenus Decaloba Supersection Disemma

1. Leaves ovate to trilobed; inflorescences generally reduced, branched through the first order only; androgynophore 1.5–5.0 cm long; nectar chamber 5-lobed. 2
  2. Leaves trilobed; flowers red, orange, or yellow in color; coronal filaments free, red, or yellow; operculum erect, or nearly so, large, yellow. I. Section Disemma
  2. Leaves ovate to lanceolate; flowers blue to grey; coronal filaments fused into a tube, dark purple to black; operculum incurved, short, purple to black. II. Section Hollrungiella
1. Leaves lanceolate, linear, orbicular, cordate, or strongly truncate with 2–3 apical lobes; inflorescences variously branched from first to fourth order; androgynophore 1.0 cm or shorter; nectar chamber unlobed. III. Section Octandranthus

Supersection Disemma, comprises all 21 Old World members in subgenus Decaloba. Though this group is small when compared with the rest of the genus, supersection Disemma possesses an enormous degree of morphological diversity. Species in Disemma possess many unique features such as branched inflorescences, unusual leaf morphologies and arrangements, and multiplication of floral parts. Additionally, this group of species showcases examples of almost all of the diversity of floral and extrafloral nectary states found within Passiflora.

Three species of Disemma are found in Northeastern Australia, one species is endemic to Papua New Guinea, and 17 species occur in China, India, and Southeast Asia. Three Asian species display anomalous patterns of floral development (Krosnick et al. 2006), resulting in deviations from the standard number of floral parts in the genus (five petals, five sepals, five stamens, and one ovary with three styles). In the Asian species, up to five styles and eight stamens may be present and may vary among flowers within an inflorescence. The Australian and New Guinean species are also unique in their tubular floral shape, a feature that has lead to a historical taxonomic alignment with New World hummingbird-pollinated species. The single species from Papua New Guinea has a tubular flower that is gray with a deep purple center, though no information on pollinators is known. The Asian species typically possess branched inflorescences with 2 to 30 small white flowers, a condition that is generally rare within the genus.

Due to the diverse morphologies exhibited in this group, the circumscription of Disemma has varied significantly over the years. Both Masters (1871) and Harms (1925) felt that the tubular morphology was a significant feature that suggested a relationship between the four Austral-Pacific species and those in the New World section Murucuia (now part of supersection Decaloba). For example, Harms (1925) divided subgenus Decaloba into four sections in order to accommodate the Old World species: section Decaloba contained all of the Southeast Asian species, two Indian species, the Australian species, and some South American species. The remaining three sections were monotypic: section Hollrungiella contained the New Guinean endemic Passiflora hollrungii, section Octandranthus contained P. siamica, and section Anomopathanthus contained P. moluccana. Later, DeWilde (1972) reclassified subgenus Decaloba and divided it into seven sections, with all Old World species placed in section Disemma.

Currently, Feuillet and MacDougal (2003) retain the sections of Disemma as delimited by Harms: the Asian taxa are recognized in section Octandranthus, the Australian species belong to section Disemma, and the monotypic section Hollrungiella comprises the New Guinean endemic P. hollrungii. Preliminary (Krosnick and Freudenstein, 2005) and more extensive sampling (Krosnick, 2006) across the genus using molecular and morphological data support the monophyly of supersection Disemma within subgenus Decaloba. Sections Octandranthus and Disemma are well-supported as monophyletic. However, the New Guinean P. hollrungii, is resolved in either of two ways: as sister to the Australian clade, or as sister to the rest of supersection Disemma (Australia + Asia). Analyses currently in progress seek to resolve confidently the position of this important species.

Included species Distribution Silicagel DNA isolated # genes sequenced
Passiflora altebilobata China Yes Yes 4
Passiflora aurantia Australia Yes Yes 5
Passiflora cinnabarina Australia Yes Yes 5
Passiflora cochinchinensis China, Vietnam Yes Yes 4
Passiflora cupiformis China Yes Yes 4
Passiflora eberhardtii China, Vietnam Yes Yes 4
Passiflora geminiflora India Yes Yes 4
Passiflora henryi China Yes Yes 4
Passiflora herbertiana Australia Yes Yes 6
Passiflora hollrungii China Yes Yes 4
Passiflora jianfengensis China Yes Yes 4
Passiflora jugorum China Yes Yes 1
Passiflora kwantungensis India Yes Yes 4
Passiflora leschenaultii Philippines, Indonesia Yes Yes 4
Passiflora moluccana China Yes Yes 4
Passiflora papilio Thailand, Malaysia Yes Yes 5
Passiflora perakensis China, Laos, India, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand Yes Yes 4
Passiflora siamica China, SE Asia to Indonesia Yes Yes 5
Passiflora sumatrana China, Vietnam, Laos Yes Yes 4
Passiflora tonkinensis China Yes Yes 4
Passiflora xishuangbannaensis China Yes Yes 4


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