There are more than 200 species of jasmine plants worldwide. The name “jasmine” comes from the Persian “yasmin,” which means “fragrant flower.” The Arabian jasmine plant (Jasminum sambac) is most likely native to India, although it grew in Egypt and Persia (now Iran) from ancient times. It is the national flower of the Philippines and of Indonesia.
By the 1600s, western Europe welcomed the jasmine plant, thanks to the Moors, who introduced it to Spain and then to France and Italy. From the late 17th century, the English cultivated the jasmine plant, too. By that time, jasmine was positively ancient in Egypt, where it arrived around the year 1000 B.C. The Egyptians used jasmine, known as “queen of flowers,” in perfume making.
The Arabian jasmine plant is a vine or shrub known for its very fragrant, white flowers and dark green leaves. The small flowers grow in clusters of three to 12 blooms, usually turning pink as they become older but blooming continuously as long as the weather remains warm. Though it is a tropical plant, the Arabian jasmine can withstand frost. However, it takes some time to recover after the frost, which means a much-delayed period of flowering that may not recommence until the fall. At full height, the Arabian jasmine plant reaches 10 feet at most.
True And False
Shining or angelwing jasmine (Jasminum nitidum) and downy jasmine (Jasminum multiflorum) are “true” forms of jasmine. However, there are other plants called jasmine that are not actually true jasmine plants, even though they are fragrant. These “pretenders” include Confederate jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) and night-blooming jasmine (Cestrum nocturnum).
Grand Duke of Tuscany is among the most popular varieties of jasmine plants. It features large, double white flowers that look like roses, and for this reason it is sometimes called “rose jasmine.” It is native to Iran. Tea manufacturers favor this variety of jasmine. From India comes the Belle of India, which has long, slender white petals. These flowers are also popular in tea-making and used in religious ceremonies. Maid of Orleans has round, white single blooms that create beautiful leis in Hawaii. The Malichat variety from Thailand is a hybrid, used to fashion floral leis. It has an unusual, multilevel pattern of petals.
Jasmine flowers flavor white, black, green and oolong teas in China. Tea-makers store the plucked jasmine blossoms until nightfall, when their fragrance is strongest. They add the flowers to dry leaves, which absorb the fragrance. China’s Fujian province is famous for its green jasmine tea, due to the profusion of jasmine plants grown in Fujian. The tradition of jasmine tea dates back to the Sung Dynasty (960 to 1179).
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