Yellow Jasmine (Gelsemium sempervirens) is now in full bloom in our area, and it is quite conspicuous, because it blooms before tree leaves emerge. This plant is also called Carolina Jasmine and is the state flower of South Carolina. Sometimes “Jessamine” is substituted for “Jasmine” in its common names. Yellow Jasmine is a climbing, evergreen vine that can reach heights of 10 meters with a suitable support. It is in the plant family Gelsemiaceae. All parts of the plant are toxic because it contains alkaloids related to strychnine. The nectar is toxic to honeybees, but not to bumblebees.
Yellow Jasmine is not a true jasmine. True jasmines are any of the approximately 200 species of the genus Jasminum in the olive family (Oleraceae) and are native to tropical regions of Africa and Asia. They are widely cultivated for their fragrance. Women of South and Southeast Asia often wear them in their hair. The flowers are also used to flavor jasmine tea. In this process the flower petals are mixed with tea leaves for several hours under controlled conditions. The tea leaves then absorb the flavor and aroma of the jasmine flowers. Jasmine rice, on the other hand, has nothing to do with jasmine flowers. It happens to have an aroma similar to jasmine flowers, but caused by different chemical compounds.
Jasmine is often used as a feminine name. It is derived from the Persian name for the jasmine (Yasameen), which means “gift of God”.