In the eyes of the honeybee, not all flowers are created equal. Though undeniably beautiful thanks to its cheery yellow blooms and long evergreen leaves, Carolina jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens) is a vine that might poison bees that attempt to pollinate it. Beekeepers and gardeners who wish to attract bees might want to consider other bee-friendly alternatives.
Little information is available about the toxicity of Carolina jessamine, also referred to as Carolina jasmine, to bees. According to gardening expert Walter Reeves, Carolina jessamine is toxic to bees only under certain conditions and when no other nectar producing flowers are available. The University of Florida Extension Service simply discredits the vine as being poisonous to bees. The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences comments that Carolina jessamine is "reportedly toxic to honeybees," but that Eastern carpenter bees and other species of bees, as well as butterflies, have been observed on the plant.
All parts of Carolina jessamine contains toxic alkaloids that are highly poisonous to humans. If ingested, symptoms can include sweating, nausea, muscular weakness and dilated pupils. More severe symptoms include lowered temperature, convulsions and respiratory failure. The plant can even be fatal, according to the North Carolina State Extension Service. Some individuals might experience skin irritation from handling the plant. If you have concerns about the human toxicity of Carolina jessamine, call the American Association of Poison Control Centers' free Poison Help Line at 1-800-222-1222.
Despite its toxicity, Carolina jessamine is a common garden ornamental that holds the honor of being the state flower of South Carolina. If you plant Carolina jessamine, keep the vine in a location away from children and plant other nectar-producing plants for bees to visit. Carolina jessamine is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 7 to 9, where it prefers partial to full sunlight and rich, well draining soil that is irrigated regularly.
Trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) is a sprawling, non-invasive flowering vine that offers tubular, coral-colored flowers in the spring and summer. Flowers are attractive and safe for bees to visit. As a bonus, the flowers also attract butterflies and hummingbirds, and the berries attract songbirds. Trumpet vine grows in USDA zones 4 to 9, preferring a bright, sunny location. The vine is not picky about soil and will grow in most average garden soils as long as it is watered occasionally.