One of the South’s most fragrant native flowering plants, yellow jasmine is a semi-evergreen climbing vine which blooms in early spring. The plant is known by several names, including Carolina jasmine, evening trumpetflower, yellow jessamine and its formal botanical name, Gelsemium sempervirens. While it occurs naturally in lightly shaded woodlands and sunny well-drained meadows, it is gaining popularity for use as a decorative landscape plant. Though it is lovely, all parts of the yellow jasmine plant are poisonous.
In its native habitat, which stretches from Florida to east Texas and north to Virginia, yellow jasmine grows in damp but well-drained thickets, preferring rich soils in or near woods, along fencerows and in young stands of trees. Yellow jasmine will grow under moderately shady conditions, but the plant puts on the best flower display when it is grown in full sun. Plants can be pruned after flowering, which takes place anywhere between December and April, depending on the local climate.
Yellow jasmine has fine, trailing tendrils which are easily trained up a trellis or other support. Individual vines can reach 15 to 20 feet in length within several years. New leaves appear just before the plant flowers. After blooming, the narrow oval leaves retain their shiny, dark green texture until winter, when leaves darken to a bronze-green. Leaves persist throughout the winter unless temperatures are unusually low.
Frequently blooming around Easter, yellow jasmine’s flowers first form as rose-red buds from February to April and open into yellow, trumpet-shaped flowers with fluted edges. A single vine can produce hundreds of flowers which scent the air around them with a sweet perfume. Flowers attract hummingbirds, swallowtail butterflies and other butterflies. Some plants will re-bloom in the fall, usually only in warmer climates in the southern reaches of the plant’s native range.
Yellow jasmine is considered to be one of the most poisonous native plants in the country due to its alkaloid content, and accidental livestock poisoning is a common occurrence where the plant grows alongside pastures. People who ingest any part of the plant may experience symptoms including nausea, dilated pupils, convulsions, respiratory failure or death. Despite its toxic properties, Native Americans used preparations of the plant’s rootstock as a blood purifier and eye ointment.
Uses in Landscaping
While the plant is frequently trained to climb up mailboxes, arbors, fence posts and other upright structures, yellow jasmine is also well-suited for use as an evergreen groundcover or as an alternative to English ivy. It is generally a low-maintenance plant, requiring little in the way of pest control or cultivation unless the grower wishes to keep the vine pruned back to a certain length or shape.
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