Gelsemium sempervirens is a twining vine native to warm temperate and tropical America from Guatemala north to Virginia. Right now, it is blooming in our gardens and along roadsides.
It has a number of common names including yellow jessamine or jasmine, false jasmine, Carolina jasmine , evening trumpet flower, gelsemium and woodbine. The term woodbine is used for many native climbing plants including Virginia creeper.
This is not a true jasmine.
Yellow jasmine can grow to 20-feet tall when given suitable climbing support in trees, with thin stems. It is evergreen, with lustrous, dark green leaves. The bright yellow, trumpet shaped flowers are borne in clusters. The flowers sometimes have an orange center. They are pleasantly fragrant and produce nectar that attracts a range of pollinators.
With proper training, the yellow jasmine vine can cover an arbor, trellis, fence, wall or pergola. It also works well as a porch cover where the blossoms attract hummingbirds and spicebush swallowtail butterflies. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildlife Center website lists yellow jasmine as a source of nectar for hummingbirds.
It flowers in early spring. Yellow jasmine must be planted in full sun for it to flower profusely, and, given enough sun and warmth, a second wave of flowers can reappear in autumn.
If you plant your yellow jasmine on a slope or bank, it will serve as a bushy, rambling groundcover. Where the vine tendrils touch the ground, they form vigorous runners that allow the plant to spread, sprawl and naturalize. Whether grown as a vine or as groundcover, this jasmine has no serious pest problems.
Yellow jessamine is the state flower of South Carolina. Historically this plant was used to treat rashes, measles, tonsillitis, rheumatism, pneumonia, malaria, cramps, hysteria and headaches. It was once a popular remedy for heart disease.
All parts of this plant contain highly toxic strychnine-related chemicals and should not be eaten. 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. The nectar is also toxic to honeybees, but may be beneficial to bumblebees since it is toxic to some of their parasites. Animals and birds may also be susceptible to the toxin, according to some experts.