Trachelospermum jasminoides (Apocynaceae)
Confederate jasmine, star jasmine (Plumeria family)
Origin: Southeast Asia
This week we feature another plant with a strange common name. Confederate jasmine did not fight in the American Civil War; nor is it a jasmine. It grows very well in the American South but is not from here. For most of the year, it is an unassuming vine with very attractive deep-green leaves and a vigorous twining habit. This vine will quickly cover a telephone pole or other support, and if left to its own devices, will mound on top of itself and create quite a thicket. Confederate jasmine only blooms once a year and not for too long…but when it’s blooming, you smell almost nothing else.
The fragrance is very similar to that of the true jasmines in the genus Jasminum, but they aren’t even in the same family. This can lead to confusion. The botanical world prefers to use the scientific names of plants not because of snobbery, but because scientific taxonomy is closely regulated and very specific; anyone can create a common name. This can not only be misleading, but can give many plants the same common name (like jasmine). The species name Trachelospermum jasminoides, however, lets us know that this plant is a Trachelospermum that is jasmine-like (the suffix “oides” meaning “similar” or “-like.”) A close relative, Trachelospermum asiaticum, has the common name Asian jasmine and is used extensively as a ground cover. It is not nearly as vigorous a climber or bloomer. The two species are commonly confused at nurseries.
Trachelospermum jasminoides can take a variety of light conditions. It prefers high light, but will still grow and bloom in pretty heavy shade, although usually with pest problems. It is extremely drought tolerant once established and needs little to no care, except preventing it from taking over. Like most Apocynaceae, wounded stems and leaves ooze copious amounts of latex which can irritate some people’s skin. Make sure you know which species you are buying at the nursery; jasminoides and asiaticum look very similar when young, but show their true habits soon after being planted in the ground.
Marie Selby Botanical Gardens has a large rambling patch of Trachelospermum jasminoides growing as a thicket just west of our hibiscus garden.
Text by David Troxell