Jasmin Juxtaposition

They are commonly misnamed, misidentified, mischaracterized, misinterpreted and misunderstood, with a delicate nature that was nonetheless deadly to ferocious creatures and armies of Alexander the Great, while offering a twist in their tale that baffled the brains behind the world’s most celebrated sleuth. They are the Jasmines or Jessamines of South Carolina – commonly known as Yellow Jasmine and Confederate Jasmine – which neither are biologically. True Jasmine is in the Olive family, composed of about 200 species not native to the United States, and mostly from Eurasia, where the term originated from the Persian “Yasamin”. Our native state flower, the Yellow Jasmine, is scientifically Gelsemium Sempervirens (Evergreen Jasmine), also known as Evening Trumpet Flower. Its difference from authentic Jasmine is minimal to the point of splitting hairs, which is appropriate considering it has also been called Poor Man’s Rope, from the historic practice of splitting and tripping vines to twist into long, powerful strands. This plant so appealing to the eye is not as welcome in other body parts, however, containing potentially toxic strychnine alkaloids that can be deadly to certain animals, from honey bees who may gather its nectar, to livestock that may chew on its leaves. It is still sold in the form of homeopathic pellets on Amazon, having been used for many years as an alternative for anxiety, perhaps because after taking it, you wouldn’t be around to get nervous jitters anymore. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle used it regularly to treat “a persistent neuralgia” while creating his Sherlock Holmes mysteries, only to discover that large doses led to convulsions, severe headaches and paralysis. Our Confederate Jasmine is not only not Jasmine, it ain’t Confederate either, at least not in the American sense, but is a plant, when first genetically identified in the late 19th century, was commonly found in what was the Federated Malay States. Scientifically Trachelospermum Jasminoides, which translates as “neck seed jasmine-like” based on the shape of seeds and flowers, is in the Apocynaceae family of plants, which is even deadlier than the Gelsemium. The name Apocynum is from Greek, meaning “dog away”, from the practice of using it to kill off wild four-leggers in ancient times. It contains cardiac glycosides that will adversely affect the cardio, neuro, and gastro systems of animals and humans, and was used to coat poison arrows fired at Alexander the Great’s army during battles in India. It is also known as Star Jasmine and Trader’s Compass for the flower’s pointed shape, and has been used as an emergency remedy for heart failure because it greatly intensifies the rate of contractions. Both of our Jasmines are also often confused with honeysuckle, which is in still another family of vines called Caprifoliaceae, and unlike the other two, is deciduous, not evergreen. 

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