My jaw dropped when I discovered this brilliant red bloom on a tree in Lamphun, Thailand. It was the most astonishingly weird flower I’ve ever seen. “Alien” flashed through my mind. The pistil and anthers protruding from the lacy white center petals looked like eyes. I almost expected them to raise their spotted red and green heads to scan me with some otherworldly laser ray. I snapped a few photos, thinking I’d figure out what it was later.
Identifying it turned out to be a monumental undertaking. I searched scored of websites that listed the flowers of Thailand and waded through thousands of photos on Google, but nothing came close to matching my photo. Frustrated, I tried a different approach, searching instead for climbing vines. Voila! I found a similar-looking flower, and a bit more research provided my answer. This bright red beauty is a Scarlet Passion Flower (scientific name Passiflora coccinea) native to the Amazon region in South America. It produces the small round passion fruit that is prized for its juice. What it was doing in Thailand, I have no idea.