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Yellow Carolina Jessamine
Gelsemium sempervirens

Photo: Dr. Robert Polomski

Sunny Side Up.
Yellow or Carolina jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens) is a vigorous and durable vine with no serious pest problems.  I am also smitten by its shiny evergreen leaves and gorgeous display of yellow, fragrant flowers.  Back in 1924 the yellow jessamine caught the eye of the General Assembly when it was officially adopted as the South Carolina state flower on February 1.  The official legislation read:  "…it is indigenous to every nook and corner of the State; it is the first premonitory of coming spring; its fragrance greets us first in the woodland and its delicate flower suggests the pureness of gold; its perpetual return out of the dead winter suggests the lesson of constancy in, loyalty to, and patriotism in the service of the State."

Yellow jessamine prefers moist, well-drained soil; however, it's not finicky and will adapt to just about all conditions.  This rampantly growing vine can reach a length of 10 to 20 feet.  If you want to adorn your mail box with yellow jessamine, prune it regularly or watch your mail box disappear beneath a mound of tangled and twisted stems.  I attempted to grow this vine as a ground cover, but it doesn't want to lie on the ground.  Carolina jessamine likes to climb, shinny, and scramble up trellises, fences, and arbors.

Besides the species, consider cultivars such as the double-flowered 'Pride of Augusta.'  A cousin, swamp jessamine (Gelsemium rankinii), offers two seasons of cascading yellow flowers, in the spring and again in the fall.