Trachelospermum Jasminoides is the Latin name for a most attractive, evergreen climber. It is commonly known as the star jasmine, although it does not belong to the Jasminum genus. It is a member of the dogbane family and is related instead to the frangipani, carissa, mandevilla and catharanthus. Although classed as a climber, this is a very versatile plant.
Other common names are Confederate jasmine or trader’s compass. The name Confederate Jasmine came about because it is suitable for the United States Gardening Zones 8 to 10. This area is often referred to as the Confederate States of America. The other common name, Trader’s Compass, relates to an Uzbekistan belief that the plant pointed traders in the right direction but only if they were reputable people.
It is native to the woodlands of China, Japan, Korea and India. The star jasmine has become a favorite in domestic and public gardens throughout the world. The glossy leaves are dark green. They are oval in shape and quite pointed at the ends. In summer the creeper is smothered in star-shaped white flowers. These are highly perfumed.
The flowers have five petals and are one to two centimeters in diameter. The plant flowers well in sun or shade but can be slow to become established. Once it has its roots firmly settled it tends to stray and can reach heights of 6 to 9 meters. It isn’t hard to keep under control if it is pruned back after flowering. Stray tendrils can be trimmed off at any time.
The star jasmine is a great addition to pergolas, walls and verandas. It will twine and climb over almost anything, hiding tree trunks or softening the appearance of bare walls. If you don’t need a climber, it makes a lovely groundcover or spill-over plant. It also makes a very fragrant hedge. Another use for Trachelospermum Jasminoides is as an edging for a garden or as topiary specimens.
Not content with being a climber and ground cover, it will thrive in containers. They are a lovely indoor plant and grow well in a greenhouse situation, especially in cold areas. As long as they get some sun through the winter, they will produce fragrant blooms in summer and autumn.
They prefer well-drained soils which contain some organic matter. Once established they are reasonably drought tolerant. Although they are susceptible to frost they will grow in light to heavy soils. There are a few cultivars but they don’t seem as vigorous in their growth patterns as the parent. One has a variegated creamy-white leaf and another, Tricolor, has pink tinges in new growth. The Variegatum cultivar has leaves with white margins.
Valuable oil is distilled from the flowers and used in high quality perfumes. In Asian cultures, the tinctured flowers are used in incense-making. Homeopathic sources state that the plant has a use in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and other complaints. The stems of Trachelospermum Jasminoides are used for bast fiber, similar to that obtained from flax or hemp. This may be used in high-quality textiles as well as in rope, carpet, sacks, paper, burlap and similar products.