Winter Jasmine Lore
Common Name: Winter Jasmine
Species, Hybrids, Cultivators:
J. nudiflorum. J.polyanthuvigorous
vine; grown indoors; sprays of white blossoms.
J. mesnyi-primrose jasmine; evergreen vine with long, arching branches; lemon yellow flowers, February-April.
J. officinale-poet’s jasmine; small, white fragrant flowers in summer; not suitable for extremely cold climates; glossy, semi-evergreen leaves
Description: Bright yellow flowers on some species of this vine brighten up the winter garden. It can also be grown as a shrub. The flowers are 3/4 to 1-inch across and generally appear before the leaves, which are deciduous. The vines are graceful, green, and slender.
Cultivation: Winter jasmine needs full sun or partial shade but is adaptable to a wide range of conditions. It is considered hardy and easy to grow, and most species withstand cold particularly well. Selective pruning of dead branches will improve the health and appearance of the plant.
Of the 200 species of jasmine known, only 15 are grown in gardens. The white jasmine was introduced to England from India by Vasco da Gama in the sixteenth century. It was particularly cherished for its scent and was often used in perfumes. The Chinese name for this plant is yeh-hsi-ming, which is probably from the Persian name ysmis, meaning “white flower.” An Italian legend says that the first person to grow jasmine in Italy was the Duke Cosimo de Medici. The Duke was inordinately proud of this plant and jealously forbade even a leaf of it to leave his garden. One of his young gardeners disobeyed this order and presented his fiancee with a branch of this beautiful plant. Together they planted this branch and were able to raise many more plants from it. These they sold at a very high price, making a tidy sum start housekeeping with. Since that time, Italian brides have worn a sprig of this jasmine on their wedding day as a token of good luck. In the Victorian language of flowers, white jasmine means amiability. Winter jasmine was introduced by English botanist Robert Fortune in 1844. It is the emblem of grace and elegance. The Carolina jessamine, the state flower of South Carolina, is not a true jasmine, The botanical name is Gelsemium sempervirens, and it is in the Loganiaceae family. It blooms from early to late spring and has a sweet fragrance. Carolina jasmine is extremely poisonous, and consuming any part of the plant is said to result in paralysis or even death. It was used as medicine during the nineteenth century but was dropped for this purpose when its extremely poisonous properties were discovered.