One of the earliest flowers to bloom in the maritime forest, Carolina Jessamine clambers to the tops of tall trees to wreathe them in garlands of bright yellow flowers. Not to be confused with Confederate Jasmine, Jessamine is described in historian Anna King Gregorie’s recounting of a visit to Dewees Island along with a poem by Henry Timrod. She writes,
But the day is too beautiful to remain indoors. So we stroll out into the fragrant woods, where the pale yellow stars of the jessamine vine fall in cascades from the treetops, perfuming the air and bringing to mind the music of (Timrod)
Out in the lonely woods the jasmine burns
Its fragrant lamps, and turns
Into a royal court with green festoons
The banks of dark lagoons
Handle Jessamine with Care and keep pets away
I was doing a little research on this welcome harbinger of spring on the LadyBird Johnson website at wildflower.org, and I was stunned to find that,
The flowers, leaves, and roots are poisonous and may be lethal to humans and livestock. The species’ nectar may also be toxic to honeybees if too much is consumed and honey made from Carolina Jessamine nectar may be toxic to humans.
I’ve never heard of anyone getting sick this way, but there are several sites that corroborate the warning, so it’s best to err on the side of caution.
There is a fact sheet for Carolina Jessamine, here at Clemson’s site. We’ve also written about here on the Dewees Island Blog.