1902 Encyclopedia > Jasmine


JASMINE, or JESSAMINE, botanically Jasminum, a genus of shrubs or climbers constituting the principal part of the natural order Jasminacex, and comprising about sixty species, of which forty or more occur in the gardens of Britain. The plants of the genus are mostly natives of the warmer regions of the Old World, but there are one or two South American species. The leaves are pinnate or ternate, or sometimes apparently simple, consisting of one leaflet, articulated to the petiole. The flowers, usually white or yellow, are arranged in terminal or axillary panicles, and have a tubular 5- or 8-cleft calyx, and a cylindrical corolla-tube, with a spreading limb, two included stamens, and a two-celled ovary.

The name is derived from the Persian gasmin. Linnaeus obtained a fancied etymology from ïa, violets, and 007x77, Israeli, but the odour of its flowers bears no resemblance to that of the violet; it is in fact so peculiar as to be incom-parable, and is probably the only floral perfume which cannot be imitated by art. The common white jasmine, Jasminum officinale, one of the best known and most highly esteemed of British hardy ligneous climbers, is said to be a native of India, and to have been introduced about the middle of the 16 th century. In the centre and south of Europe it is thoroughly acclimatized. Although it grows to the height of 12 and sometimes 20 feet, its stem is feeble and requires support; its leaves are opposite, pinnated, and dark green, the leaflets are in three pairs, with an odd one, and are pointed, the terminal one larger and with a tapering point. The fragrant white flowers bloom from June to October ; and, as they are found chiefly on the young shoots, the plant should only be pruned in the autumn. Varieties with golden and silver-edged leaves and one with double flowers are known.

FIG. 1. —Jasminum grandiflorum, half nat. size ; flower, natural size.

The Zambak or Arabian jasmine, Jasminum Sambac, is an evergreen white-flowered climber, 6 or 8 feet high, intro-duced into Britain in the latter part of the 17th century. Two varieties introduced somewhat later are respectively 3-leaved and double-flowered, and these, as well as that with normal flowers, bloom throughout the greater part of the year. On account of their exquisite fragrance the flowers are highly esteemed in the East, and are frequently referred to by the Persian and Arabian poets. An oil obtained by-boiling the leaves is used to anoint the head for complaints of the eye, and an oil obtained from the roots is used medicinally to arrest the secretion of milk. The flowers of one of the double varieties, known as " Moogree," are held sacred to Vishnu, and used as votive offerings in Hindu religious ceremonies. In China the flowers of this plant, under the name of " Mo-le-hwa," are used for scent-ing tea. The Spanish, or Catalonian jasmine, J. grandi-florum (fig. 2), which grows wild on the island of Tobago, is very like J. officinale, but differs in the size of the leaflets ; the branches are shorter and stouter, and the flowers very much larger, and reddish underneath. By grafting it on two-year-old plants of J. officinale, an erect bush about 3 feet high is obtained, requiring no supports. In this way it is very extensively cultivated at Cannes and Grasse, in the south of France; the plants are set in rows, fully ex-posed to the sun; they come into full bearing the second year after grafting; the blossoms, which are very large and intensely fragrant, are produced from July till the end of October, but those of August and September are the most odoriferous. An acre of land is said to yield about 500 K> of blossoms during the season, value £25 to £35. The aroma is extracted by the process known as " enfleurage," i.e., absorption by a fatty body, such as purified lard or olive oil. Square glass trays framed with wood about 3 inches deep are spread over with grease about half an inch thick, in which ridges are made to facilitate absorption, and sprinkled with freshly gathered flowers, which are renewed every morning during the whole time the plant remains in blossom; the trays are piled up in stacks to prevent the evaporation of the aroma; and finally the pomade is scraped off the glass, melted at as low a temperature as possible, and strained. When oil is em-ployed as the absorbent, coarse cotton cloths previously saturated with the finest olive oil are laid on wire-gauze frames, and repeatedly covered in the same manner with fresh flowers ; they are then squeezed under a press, yield-ing what is termed "huile antique au jasmin." 3 lb of flowers will perfume 1 lb of grease,—this is exhausted by maceration in 1 pint of rectified spirit to form the "extract."

An essential oil is distilled from jasmine in Tunis and Algeria, but its high price prevents its being used to any extent. The East Indian oil of jasmine is a com-pound largely contaminated with sandalwood-oil. The dis-tinguishing characters of J. odoratissimum consist princi-pally in the alternate, obtuse, ternate, and pinnate leaves, the 3-flowered terminal peduncles, and the 5-cleft yellow corolla with obtuse segments. The flowers have the advantage of retaining when dry their natural perfume, which is suggestive of a mixture of jasmine, jonquille, and orange-blossom. In China the J. paniculatum is cultivated as an erect shrub, known as Sieu-hing-hwa; it is valued for its flowers, which are used with those of J. Sambac, in the proportion of 10 tt> of the former to 30 lb of the latter, for scenting tea—40 lb of the mixture being required for 100 lb of tea. The " narrow leaved jasmine," J. angusti-folium, is a beautiful evergreen climber 10 to 12 feet high, found in the Coromandel forests, and introduced into Britain during the present century. Its leaves are of a bright shining green; its large terminal flowers are white with a faint tinge of red, fragrant, and blooming through-out the year. The bitter root, ground small and mixed with lime-juice and root of Acorus Calamus, is considered in India a good remedy for ringworm and herpes. In Cochin China a decoction of the leaves and branches of J. nervosum is taken as a blood-purifier; and the bitter leaves of J", jioribundum (called in Abyssinia " Habbez-zelim") mixed with Kousso is considered a powerful anthelmintic, especially for tape-worm; the leaves and branches are added to some fermented liquors to increase their intoxi-cating quality. In Sierra Leone a poultice made with the leaves of J. noctijiorum is applied to ulcers. The leaves of J. Mrsutum boiled in oil are applied in India and China in cases of ophthalmia, and its root is said to be a really good remedy for snake bites. In Catalonia and in Turkey the wood of the jasmine is made into long, slender pipe-stems, highly prized by the Moors and Turks. Syrup of jasmine is made by placing in a jar alternate layers of the flowers and sugar, covering the whole with wet cloths and standing it in a cool place ; the perfume is absorbed by the sugar, which is converted into a very palatable syrup.

The plant known in America as the " Carolina jasmine " (fig. 2) is not a true jasmine (see GELSEMIUM). Other hardy species commonly cultivated in gardens are the low or Italian yellow-flowered jasmine, J. humile, an erect shrub 3 or 4 feet high, with angular branches, alternate and

FIG. 2.—Gelsemium, half natural size ; flower, nat. size.

mostly ternate leaves, blossoming from June to September; the common yellow jasmine, J. fruticans, a hardy deciduous shrub, 10 to 12 feet high, with weak, slender stems requir- ing support, and bearing yellow, odourless flowers from spring to autumn ; and J. nudijiorum, which flowers before the leaves appear. (J. CH. S.)

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