Exploring Florida’s Native Gems: Carolina Jessamine

This bright and fragrant evergreen vine is often overlooked but can be easily recognized by its charming yellow flowers. And yes, it is a great addition to your landscape! In this series, we will uncover the origins, growing conditions, and importance of native species like the Carolina Jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens) to support our environment and conserve resources.

“Carolina jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens)” by bob in swamp is licensed under CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/?ref=openverse.

The Value of Native Species 

Native plants are often overlooked gems in the world of gardening. Native flora, like the Carolina Jessamine (also known as Evening Trumpet Flower, poor man’s rope, or yellow jasmin), have adapted to Florida’s specific climate and soil conditions over time, making them resilient and low-maintenance additions to most gardens and landscapes. Despite the advantages, many gardeners still bypass planting natives for exotic alternatives. Planting native flora is important for environmental health and contributes to the establishment of thriving, sustainable gardens in Florida.

Origins of the Carolina Jessamine

Carolina Jessamine gets its name from its beautiful clusters of fragrant yellow flowers that bloom in late winter to early spring. This vine is indigenous to the southeastern United States, including the diverse landscapes of Florida. This hardy vine thrives in Florida’s warm climate and well-drained soils. Its fragrant yellow flowers are known to attract bees and butterflies, which play crucial roles in pollination.

Credit: UF/IFAS Gardening Solutions

Although they look very similar, this plant should not be confused with the non-native cat’s-claw vine (Dolichandra unguis-cati), which is not prohibited to be sold, purchased, planted, or transported in Florida (UF/IFAS Assessment 2019). Cat’s-claw vine is currently listed as a Category I invasive plant on the Florida Invasive Species Council’s 2019 List of Invasive Plant Species. 

Yellow flowers and green leaves of cat's-claw vine. The 3-pronged "claws" that replace the terminal leaflet in each compound leaf are visible at the lower right.
Flowers and leaves of cat’s-claw vine. The 3-pronged “claws” that replace the terminal leaflet in each compound leaf are visible at the lower right. Credit: Niels Proctor, UF/IFAS

By planting Carolina Jessamine in your garden, you can help support local biodiversity and encourage beneficial insect populations. This vine is beautiful, resilient, and ecologically beneficial.

Growing Conditions and Characteristics

Carolina Jessamine flourishes in full sun and will tolerate some shade. It can adapt to different soil types and is drought-tolerant once established. This vine can withstand a range of temperatures and is suitable for USDA Hardiness Zones 7-9. It grows as a climbing vine, offering versatility in landscape design. It can grow up to 20 feed and spread about 1-3 feet. Carolina Jessamine is a low-maintenance perennial that serves as an excellent choice for trellises, arbors, or as ground cover in native landscapes. In the late winter to early spring, it’s showy yellow flowers will appear, and can be very fragrant.

Why Plant Native Species? 

Native species have adapted to the environment, which means they are low maintenance additions that support the local ecosystems. Another advantage of native plants is that they have evolved with indigenous wildlife. This means you can have the aesthetics of a beautiful healthy landscape and nurture local ecosystems at the same time.

Overall, they require minimal upkeep, demanding less water, fertilizer, and pesticides compared to non-native alternatives. By selecting natives, we can conserve water, lessen maintenance efforts, and safeguard resources. That being said, not all exotic plants are invasive or aggressive in nature. There is room for diversity in the home landscape and exotic plants can be a part of that diversity.

“Gelsemium sempervirens” by sonnia hill is licensed under CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/?ref=openverse.

The Detriment of Invasive Species

While native plants like Carolina Jessamine contribute positively to our environment, invasive species pose significant threats to ecosystems. These aggressive plants out-compete native species, upsetting ecological balance and diminishing biodiversity. In Florida, invasive species such as melaleuca and air potato vine threaten native habitats by crowding out native flora and fauna.

Remember the cardinal rule of Florida-Friendly Landscaping: Plant the right plant in the right place. Location is key when considering both exotic and native plants. When planning your garden or landscape design, consider Carolina Jessamine. Not only will you be treated to its delightful yellow flowers year after year, but you will also be playing a vital role in supporting local biodiversity and conserving resources.

“Carolina jessamine shrub — Gelsemium sempervirens” by Jim Evans is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/?ref=openverse.


With its ability to attract pollinators and thrive in diverse garden settings, Carolina Jessamine stands out as a beautiful and sustainable choice for your garden. And the wonderful aroma from the blooms is an added bonus. Native species offer an ideal option for gardeners seeking vibrant, low-maintenance, and ecologically rich landscapes in Florida.

Have a question?

If you have any questions about gardening in Central Florida, please contact the UF/IFAS Extension Pasco County at 352-518-0156. For more information on UF/IFAS Extension Pasco County Community Gardens, and how you can join one, visit http://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/pasco/.

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Co-Authors: Dr. Whitney Elmore and Jim Moll

Other Blogs in the Series

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Julia Sirchia, Program Assistant at UF/IFAS Extension Pasco County
Posted: July 2, 2024

Category: Crops, Florida-Friendly Landscaping, Home Landscapes, Horticulture, UF/IFAS Extension
Tags: #RightPlantRightPlace, #SaveWaterFL, Central Florida, Community Garden, Community Gardens, Florida Friendly Landscaping, Garden, Gardening, Gardens, Goals, Horticulture, Irrigation, Landscape, Landscaping, Resilient Landscaping, Right Place, Right Plant, Saving Water, UF/IFAS Pasco Extension Office, Water-wise

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