Online Encyclopedia

JASMINE, or JESSAMINE

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V15, Page 278 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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JASMINE, or JESSAMINE, botanically Jasminum, a genus of shrubs or climbers constituting the principal part of the tribe Jasminoideae of the natural order Oleaceae, and comprising about 150 species, of which 40 or more occur in the gardens of Britain. The plants of the genus are mostly natives of the warmer regions of the Old World; there is one 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, a cylindrical corolla-tube, with a spreading limb, two included stamens and a two-celled ovary. The name is derived from the Persian ydsmin. Linnaeus obtained a fancied etymology from 'la, violets, and &p h, smell, but the odour of its flowers bears no resemblance to that of the violet. The common white jasmine, Jasminum officinale, one of the best known and most highly esteemed of British hardy ligneous climbers, is a native of northern India and Persia, introduced about the middle of the 16th century. In the centre and south of Europe it is thoroughly acclimatized. Although it grows to the height of r2 and sometimes 20 ft., its stem is feeble and requires support; its leaves are opposite, pinnate 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. The zambak or Arabian jasmine, J. Sambac, is an evergreen white-flowered climber, 6 or 8 ft. high, introduced 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 Jasminum grandiflorum; flower, natural size. 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 are held sacred to Vishnu, and used as votive offerings in Hindu religious ceremonies. The Spanish, or Catalonian jasmine, J. grandiflorum, a native of the north-west Himalaya, and cultivated both in the old and new world, 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 ft. 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 exposed 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. 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 in. 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 theglass, melted at as low a temperature as possible, and strained. When oil is employed 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, yielding what is termed huile antique au jasmin. Three pounds of flowers will perfume i lb of grease—this is exhausted by maceration in i pt. 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 compound largely contaminated with sandalwood-oil. The distinguishing characters of J. odoratissimum, a native of the Canary Islands and Madeira, consist principally 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, jonquil and orange-blossom. In China 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 lb of the former to 30 lb of the latter, for scenting tea—4o lb of the mixture being required for 1o0 lb of tea. J. angustifolium is a beautiful evergreen climber to to 12 ft. 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 throughout the year. 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. floribundum (called in Abyssinia habbez-zelim) mixed with kousso is considered a powerful anthelmintic, especially for tapeworm; the leaves and branches are added to some fermented liquors to increase their intoxicating quality. 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 important medicinal plant known in America as the " Carolina jasmine " is not a true jasmine (see GELSEM1uM). Other hardy species commonly cultivated in gardens are the low or Italian yellow-flowered jasmine, J. humile, an East Indian species introduced and now found wild in the south of Europe, an erect shrub 3 or 4 ft. high, with angular branches, alternate and mostly ternate leaves, blossoming from June to September; the common yellow jasmine, J. fruticans, a native of southern Europe and the Mediterranean region, a hardy evergreen shrub, 10 to 12 ft. high, with weak, slender stems requiring support, and bearing yellow, odourless flowers from spring to autumn; and J. nudiflorunt (China), which bears its bright yellow flowers in winter before the leaves appear. It thrives in almost any situation and grows rapidly.
End of Article: JASMINE, or JESSAMINE
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