Boerne Chapter

April 2005

NICE! Plant of the Month

(Gelsemium sempervirens)

Bright yellow cluster of three flowers
Image courtesy of Texas Native Shrubs, a collection of original photographs taken by Mr. Benny Simpson, Texas naturalist and plantsman extraordinaire, and long time researcher at the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station in Dallas.

Carolina Jessamine is an evergreen, perennial, flowering vine. Its natural range includes East Texas and much of the southeastern U.S. It produces fragrant, yellow, funnel-shaped flowers and is often one of the first plants to bloom in the spring. Gelsemium sempervirens has glossy green leaves 3″ long by 1″ wide on many-branched woody stems. The flowers are 1-1.5″ long, 1″ across, and have 5 deep lobes. Blooming period is from February through April and then for a short time in the fall. Carolina Jessamine is a nectar plant for the Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly; it also attracts honeybees. It is usually found growing in sunny woodlands or thickets.

Deer Resistance:
Carolina Jessamine is not usually browsed by deer and is listed as a deer tolerant plant in many plant references.

Planting Sites:
Carolina Jessamine is hardy from Zones 8 through 11. It has medium water requirements and can be planted in full sun or part shade. It’s adaptable to different soils ranging from its native sandy loam to black clay. In full sun and rich soil, the vine will flower abundantly and spread quickly, but it also grows in shade and poorer soil. It may need extra water in dry times. As with most vines, thick mulch or a large rock at the base of the plant keep roots cool and the plant flourishing. Carolina Jessamine is a high-climbing vine that will reach a height of 10 feet. It climbs by twining, and can be trained to grow on fences, walls, or other structures. It can also be used as a ground-cover.

Planting Instructions:
Dig a hole at least two times wider than, but the same depth as the root ball in the nursery container. Sides of the hole should be irregular, not smooth. Remove plant from container, taking care to support the root ball and avoid the spines. Loosen exterior roots gently with fingers. If the plant is root-bound, the outer roots may be cut in several places if they cannot be loosened by hand. Lift the plant by the root ball and place it in the hole. Backfill using soil that was dug from the hole. Do not add any soil to the top of the root ball, but a thin layer of compost may be spread over the soil surface. Gently firm the soil with hands, but do not tamp. Place 3-4 inches of mulch over the bare soil and root ball around the plant, but not touching the base of the plant.

Watering Instructions:
After planting, water deeply in order to settle soil around roots. An organic-based root stimulator may be used following instructions on the product label. Water deeply a couple of times a week for 2-4 weeks after planting, then every 7-10 days, as needed, during the first growing season. Check moisture an inch or two into soil at the edge of the root ball to determine soil moisture. Skip a watering after a rainfall of ½ to 1 inch. Maintain this watering schedule until the first fall. Reduce watering during fall and winter. In a “normal” year, no watering may be necessary during fall and winter, but during a dry period, monthly watering may be needed. From the second spring and throughout the second summer, water monthly only in periods of drought. Watering should be unnecessary after the plant is thoroughly established.

NICE! Tip:
A perennial, usually green year round, with springtime cascades of yellow flowers, Carolina Jessamine is easy to love. It can be used to cover a fence, wall, trellis or arbor, and will provide some shade in the landscape. Plant Carolina Jessamine instead of English ivy or annual non-native vines.

Look for the NICE! Plant of the Month signs and information sheets on your next visit to a participating Boerne nursery. And thank you for supporting native plants by using them in your landscapes.

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About the Region

New Braunfels, the location of our Fall 2024 Symposium, straddles both the Edwards Plateau Ecoregion and the Blackland Prairie ecoregion. Interstate 35 divides the city of New Braunfels; its path through the city closely parallels the boundary of these two ecoregions, with the Edwards Plateau on the west side and the Blackland Prairies region to the east. The Edwards Plateau area is also called the Hill Country; however, this general term covers a much larger area extending farther north. Spring-fed creeks are found throughout the region; deep limestone canyons, rivers, and lakes (reservoirs) are common. Ashe juniper is perhaps the most common woody species found throughout the region. Additional woody species include various species of oak, with live oak (Quercus fusiformis) being the most common. Sycamores (Platanus occidentalis) and bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) border waterways. This area is well known for its spring wildflower displays, though they may be viewed in spring, late summer, and fall, as well. According to Texas Parks and Wildlife, average annual rainfall in the Edwards Plateau ranges from 15 to 34 inches.

The Blackland Prairie extends from the Red River south to San Antonio, bordered on the west by the Edwards Plateau and the Cross Timbers, and on the east by the Post Oak Savannah. Annual rainfall averages 30 to 40 inches, with higher averages to the east. This region is dominated by prairie species. The most common grass species include little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) and Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans) in the uplands and switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) in the riparian areas and drainages. Common herbaceous flowering plants include salvias, penstemons, and silphiums. This area has suffered greatly from overgrazing and agricultural use. Few intact areas remain, though many of the plants can be found along county roadsides throughout the region.

Our four host chapters (New Braunfels, Lindheimer, Guadalupe, and the Hill Country chapters) are located in one or both of the ecoregions above. However, the eastern portion of Guadalupe County also falls within the Post Oak Savanna ecoregion. Annual rainfall averages 35 to 45 inches, with higher averages to the east. A wide variety of hardwood trees are found, including several species of oaks, elms, and in the Bastrop area, loblolly pine (Pinus taeda). Grasses and forbs dominate in the open savannas, with most common grass being little bluestem. Ranching, agriculture, and fire suppression have allowed woody species to encroach on the once-open savannas.

Source: Wildflowers of Texas by Michael Eason