Sunday, March 24, 2013

Yellow/Carolina jessamine - Gelsemium sempervirens

Yellow, or Carolina, jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens) is one of the most familar native vines to those of us that use natives in our landscape.  It is found nearly statewide in a wide variety of upland conditions, from pinelands to scrub.  It also is found throughout the Southeastern Coastal Plain from Texas to Virginia. 
As its Latin name implies, it is evergreen. It is a twining vine and it grows a great many feet in all directions from its central growing point.  Often, it grows up and over the adjacent vegetation, and can climb quite high into the canopy of trees.  In more xeric conditions, it sometimes grows more like a ground cover. The elliptical leaves are opposite each other on the stem.
Blooming occurs in late winter to early spring, though it is sometimes possible to see flowers at other times of the year.  They are a bright canary yellow and highly fragrant.  It is often easy to detect the presence of yellow jessamne well before it is seen.  The flowers attract a wide variety of pollinators, including hummingbirds. The pollinated flowers ripen to dry seed capsules.  The seeds have a prominent wing along the outer edge, a feature not present in its close cousin, swamp jessamine.
Yellow jessamine is widely propagated and normally easy to locate from commercial sources, even ones that don't specialize in native plants.  It is quite adaptable and will tolerate a wide variety of sites as long as it is not kept too wet.  As a vine, it will tolerate shade if allowed to grow up into the canopy of nearby trees. It also does well in full sun.  I believe that yellow jessamine is best used on a trellis or fence where its bright yellow, fragrant, flowers can be admired.  If used as a ground cover, it often becomes a tangled mess that is very difficult to walk through. If planted near the base of a tall tree, it will venture up into the canopy, but the flowers cannot be easily seen or smelled.
The one drawback to this species is that it tends to sucker.  In a more formal landscape, it should be placed in a setting where the suckers can be controlled by judicious pruning. If used in a naturalistic setting, it will spread and will be difficult to control. But, in such a setting, control may not be needed.


  1. I've been enjoying this beauty for several weeks now. Several wooded trails where I walk have this sweet bloom in abundance.

  2. Nice blog and great work recording all the beautiful photos! I have so many photos of plants in the woods of North Marion County- my goal is to eventually show the life cycle of some of the wild plants

  3. The blog posts are super informative + helpful; thank you. Regarding the note about gelsemium sempervirens expanding beyond its assigned fence or trellis, would you say this vine is aggressive? Or can be kept in place by trimming every couple of months? I am looking for vines that stay roughly in place even with very little maintenance. Perhaps a scale, from easy to passion-vine-aggressive, would be great. (I am wondering the same about other vines: Bignonia capreolata, Ipomoea quamoclit, clitoria ternatea, lonicera sempervirens, and centrosema virginianum).

  4. Most vines are aggressive in that they are designed by nature to produce suckers and then to climb up and over things. Coral honeysuckle doesn't - so it is one of the best behaved and the only time I've had any issues with it is when it reseeds - but then the seedlings are easily transplanted to be given away. The Ipomeas often reseed aggressively and require more maintenance to keep them in bounds. Species like butterfly pea and Clitoria will sucker, but because they are very week stemmed, they are not difficult to maintain with regular pruning. Crossvine is absolutely one of the very worst - along with trumpet creeper, in terms of aggressively taking over a landscape. They are woody, so each and every sucker is tougher to clip and remove and they sucker everywhere. I avoid them in a home landscape and admire them in nature. That leaves Gelsemium somewhere in the middle. I have had friends try to use them in a mixed species landscape and as a ground cover - in both situations, they became impossible to maintain because of the extensive suckering and the fact that they were growing in amongst plants that could not be easily worked around. If planted in an open space and left to grow up a tree or on a fence or trellis where you can then weed out the suckers that expand outward, it is a beautiful plant and a good one to add to a landscape. I have nearly always had some, but I am very careful not to let it get into areas where weeding would be difficult. Hope this helps.

  5. that is hugely helpful - thank you so much!


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