An Old Friend Flower

Yellow Jasmine. I had not seen this once-common and familiar flowering vine for many years living well north of its tropical range.

You could easily miss this climbing vine as you race along the interstates of the deep south–until you notice it, and then see it everywhere while it blooms in March and April.

I’ll take the lazy way out and just pass along some botanical background on this lovely–if sometimes noxious–southern wildflower. From Wikipedia…

[su_quote]All parts of this plant contain the toxic strychnine-related alkaloids gelsemine and gelseminine and should not be consumed.[5] The sap may cause skin irritation in sensitive individuals. Children, mistaking this flower for honeysuckle, have been poisoned by sucking the nectar from the flower.[6]

The nectar is also toxic to honeybees,[7] which may cause brood death when gathered by the bees. The nectar may, however, be beneficial to bumblebees. It has been shown that bees fed on gelsemine have a reduced load of Crithidia bombi in their fecal mater. Reduced parasite load increases foraging efficiency, and pollinators may selectively collect otherwise toxic secondary metabolites as a means of self-medication.[8]

Despite the hazards, this is a popular garden plant in warmer areas, frequently being trained to grow over arbors or to cover walls. Yellow Jessamine is the state flower of South Carolina.[/su_quote]

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Your spelling and Wikipedia’s spelling aren’t the same. Whizz up? In Calidornia, we have a white sweet smelling flower called night-blooming jasmine. Any relation?