Saturday, October 23, 2010

Jasminum polyanthum

Researching this plant was a fascinating study in the issues around pest plants here. I love this plant, but many hate it, and I couldn't blame them.

There are also a lot of misconceptions around the legalities to do with pest plants. ('Noxious weed' is no longer an officially used term here).

The ethics and rules around these plants are complex, and I'd especially like to thank Melanie Newfield at MAF for helping me negotiate my way through these!

About our wild jasmine
Jasmines are plants in the Jasminum genus. Gardeners here grow several species of jasmine which generally stay well contained. But one has become a pest plant and grows wild - Jasminum polyanthum.

It looks a lot like one that is not a pest - Jasminum azorica, or star jasmine.  It has a similar shape and size and climbs. But Jasminum polyanthum has a distinctive pinkish colour to the buds and younger flowers. Sometimes it's called pink jasmine.

Because it hails from China it's also called Chinese jasmine.

Friend or foe?
Jasminum polyanthum isn't a pest everywhere - in England the British Royal Horticultural society gave it their Award of Garden Merit. It's very well behaved there.

In New Zealand and Australia it grows more profusely, takes over gardens, and escapes them. But even within this country it behaves very differently from region to region. In some places it struggles to get a foothold in the wild. In others it runs rampant.

Round the north of the North Island and in Nelson it causes the biggest headaches. In these places the local authorities have included it in their Pest Plant Strategies.

However, in most parts of New Zealand it's actually not officially a Pest Plant - so there are no rules around it.

Lots of introduced plants behave differently in different parts of the country, and that's why strategically and legislatively so much focus is on managing these plants at a local authority level.

You can find out which plants are on which Regional Pest Management Strategies here.  Just scroll down and enter the species of plant you're looking for. (Or choose from the menu.)

There's also a National Pest Plant Accord that lists plants that are to be dealt with as pests throughout the entire country. Jasminum polyanthum is not on the national list. You can see which plants are on it here at Biosecurity NZ .

Dealing with Jasminum polyanthum
Often it spreads by people dumping their garden waste into a public area. It can grow from tiny bits of stem, and it sends out runners far and wide. It doesn't usually fruit, except occasionally in some warmer areas like Auckland. In that case birds may eat the berries and disperse it.

If it's part of a Pest Management Strategy in your area, you can't generally 'sell, propagate or distribute' it. In practice this means you can't do anything with it that would be likely to spread it.

If it's not part of a local Pest Management Strategy, but you still have concerns about it, ethically you may want to follow the same protocol as if it was listed as a pest plant.

If you're gathering it in the wild you may also want to think, if I have the time do this - should I actually be spending that time on helping get rid of it?

Melanie Newfield talked a little to me about how pest management teams often prioritise their time - which may be relevant to how you treat Jasminum polyanthum.

The teams are more likely to spend time on getting rid of pest plants from areas where they are just starting to show their faces, rather than work on trying to get rid of them from a place where they've already taken over and would be frustratingly time consuming, if not impossible to remove.

They take a stitch-in-time-saves-nine approach, and consider it the most efficient use of their time and resources.

Working with authorities
People sometimes fear that the council is going to come and demand they remove pest plants from their property, or fine them for having them - but in practice local authorities follow a more collaborative and educational approach.

They want everyone to work together on helping reduce the hold of pest plants, they don't want to come down heavy on people.

I'm told their whole approach these days is based on spreading information on pest plants and offering encouragement to people.

Their work also involves acknowledging that different people have different perspectives on particular plants, and they don't want to inflame what may already by a polarising issue.

Uses for jasmine
Jasmine in its various different species and varieties is a staple of the perfume industry, and you can make your own jasmine tinctures at home for fragrance.

Jasmine is a strangely beguiling smell. Some are horrified to learn that one of its peculiar charms is that it shares a molecule in common with faeces - indole.

That partly explains the love-it-or-hate-it thing that people have for the fragrance. (Other flowers contain indole too, but jasmine is especially noted for it.) Perfumery has always walked a fine line when it comes to animalic smells!

Jasmine flowers are edible - and an interesting addition to  salads or used as garnishes.

You can also add them, dried or fresh, to green tea, to make your own mock jasmine tea.

They dry well, so collecting them and drying them and keeping them in a jar for tea is very doable.

There are numerous recipes on the net for jasmine tea infused vodka. I haven't tried it as a drink, but I'm sure you could do this with the straight flowers as well.

Above photo of Jasminum polyanthum courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.


Cally said...

I planted that lovely pinky jasmine on our fence in the early 1980s - recommended by someone in a garden centre. I love it. Except the perfume induces depression in me. By the time I realised that, it had seriously invaded my garden, and I ended up having to have a homeopathic version ready and waiting each year at flowering time. Thank goodness there isn't any nearby now we live out in the country.

Heather said...

As kids everyone at my school (in Auckland) loved sucking the nectar from jasmine flowers. You pick them and suck the tube at the base. Often you get nothing (some insect has been there before you) but when you get it it's really yummy. I still do it sometimes :-)

Anonymous said...

Great post Johanna, and very useful links! And interesting to hear what the management strategies are these days. Otago must be one of the places where jasmine isn't such a problem, although I tried digging some out of my garden once, the non-invasive kind, and even it really didn't want to leave.

Johanna Knox said...

Cally - the scent of jasmine is supposed to induce feelings of calm and happiness in most people (I think there's research to this effect) - but it always interests me how anything mood altering can have an effect on a few people that's almost opposite to that which it has on most. I know I have a tendency to find certain sedatives quite agitating!!

Heather - was it definitely jasmine - not honeysuckle? Someone told me the same thing about jasmine and I told them I was sure it must be honeysuckle ... but now that you've said this too I'm not so sure anymore!!!

Lus - thanks!
I'm trying to grow some star jasmine at the moment. It doesn't seem to be growing as well as I'd hoped, but as long as it doesn't die, I'll be happy! :)

Heather said...

100% definitely jasmine :-) Honeysuckle sounds good, too, though - but it didn't grow like a weed at my primary school!

Johanna Knox said...

Hmm, better send someone a small apology then! :)

Simon Edwards said...

Hi Johanna,
I'd like to write a feature for the seven community newspapers in our group about wild food. Can I interview you - and others you might suggest!
Simon Edwards
Editor, Hutt News,
Editor in chief Central Community Newspapers

Simon Edwards said...

Regarding my previous post - my email address is


Katherine Josh said...

I’ve been trying to exercise and drink more tea everyday. With and these flowering teas, it’s been a breeze!

Up til now, Jasmine Flower is my favorite!

Nikki said...

I'm posting terribly late here Johanna, but have just been looking over a few of your older posts.

I also strongly remember sucking on jasmine flowers for the nectar.

I've got a very slow growing jasmine in my front garden. I thought with the way they are known to overtake things that it should have been a monster by now. It does seem to be becoming a little more robust now (actually looked like it was dying at one point), but it's sure taking it's time!

Maggie Mahboubian said...

I have this jasmine in my garden; it's also known as the winter jasmine in LA because it bursts into bloom in January or February for about month. Because I have small children who play with plants, I learned the berries were toxic. This led to me to have a meltdown after my daughter squeezed them all over her hands . . . they stain a lovely deep purple. She was OK, but I had to have a stern talk with her.

Personally, I put 2 or 3 jasmine blossoms in my tea (with milk) every morning. It is heavenly.

Johanna said...

Interesting, Maggie - and thanks for the heads up about the berries. I've never seen any fruiting round here. They don't seem to do it in our climate. But I believe that they occasionally do further north in this country.

sigje said...

I've been looking around for information, but can star jasmine (the woody vine) that is often grown in backyards be used for teas?

Johanna Knox said...

Hi Sigje

Now you've got me curious! I don't know. I wouldn't risk consuming star jasmine at this point, as it's from a different plant family from the true jasmines (which are plants in the Jasminum genus).

It might be edible, but I just don't know. Might see if I can research it. And if you find out I'd love to know.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Johanna, for a great post. I live in Spain, in Pirinees Mountain and here we struggle to save our J. polyanthum from frosts...hehehe. The summer 2012 was extremaly hot here and my plat set up thousands of berries. They are black and shiny, in big clusters and look very nice. O have tried one or two and in spite they are rippen (it's already winter) they have no taste, just colour like a blueberries. Do you know anything about fruit use? They seem to be useful just for seeds...

class jee said...

I love this plant, but many hate it, and I couldn't blame them.

Ber Doolan said...

Careful....a lot of different types of Jasmin are poisonous! Star Jasmine is not considered safe to eat! And certain other Jasmin is highly dangerous for humans and animals. Make sure what type you have before you try.

Celia Rose said...

Trying to decide whether to plant this, or Star Jasmine at my new place in Christchurch. I LOVE the true Jasmine.. it reminds me of my childhood as we had a huge plant growing by our terrace area. I think I will risk it!!