Jessamine or Jasmine???

When visiting my wife’s native state of South Carolina, I noticed two flowering vines that seemed to be everywhere – on trellises and fences throughout Charleston and again on fences and trees over the countryside. The bright yellow tubular flowers are the Yellow Jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens) which is the state flower of our next alphabetical state – South Carolina. The brilliant red flowering vine was the Red Morning Glory which seemed to be everywhere. As I was completing research for this article, I encountered the different names, Jessamine and Jasmine, as well as two different colors – yellow and white. There is no doubt that the South Carolina state flower was yellow and the official website spells the vine as “Jessamine”.

The Yellow Jessamine – the official state flower of South Carolina.

The spelling variation is universally found and used interchangeably but technically the “Jasmine” name is reserved for the white flowering vine native to Asia while “Jessamine” refers to the native vine in the southern US and Mexico. Confederate Jasmine is not a Jasmine at all and is not native to the Southern US despite its name. I have an aggressive vine in my northwest facing front yard and in one summer it exploded up a trellis, and would have grown over my house if I had let it. The flowers are white and very aromatic and mine bloomed in late summer at the top of the trellis where the sun was the brightest. A tea is made from the white blossoms but do not try any concoction with the yellow Jessamine as it is very toxic.

The Confederate Jasmine is a striking trellis vine but very aggressive.

I mentioned another vine seen across South Carolina fields and that is the Small Red Morning Glory.

The Small Red Morning Glory is an invasive plant and classified as a noxious weed in Georgia.

I experimented this past summer with the Red Morning Glory and it became one of the fastest growing plants in my landscape. I had to prune it almost daily as it spread innumerable tendrils in all directions faster than I could cut them back. For every one I pruned, four more erupted the next day. Fortunately, with a frost it died back and I am left with a blank trellis for another plant next Spring. While on the subject of vines, I have planted several varieties of Clematis but made a mistake and put them on the same trellis as the Confederate Jasmine. Within the first weeks of sprouting, the Jasmine was in control and dominated my poor Clematis from mid-summer on.

A Clematis should be on a trellis or fence by itself and not coupled with the aggressive Jasmine.

Another vine I am experimenting with is the Mandevilla, a strictly tropical sun-loving vine with red, pink, or white tubular flowers. Watch out for the thorns!

The Mandevilla loves heat and do not purchase a vine in early Spring as a late frost will destroy the vine. I learned the hard way.

So which flowering vine is your favorite? I lean toward the Yellow Jessamine and any colored Clematis but keep them all in the sun, well watered, and not too much fertilizer or you will have massive foliage and scant blooms. It is time for one last look at the Jessamine before we head to South Dakota and investigate a very unique state flower.

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