Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Brazilian jasmine native to Brazil, not the Chilean jasmine native to Argentina

Species name: Mandevilla sanderi

Common name: Brazilian jasmine

Location: UWO Greenhouse

Brazilian jasmine is native to (you guessed it) Brazil, and until recently was considered part of a separate genus from the rest of the Mandevilla species in the genus Dipladenia. Most of the species currently classified in Mandevilla are native to Ecuador; this is one of the only species that's not. It's also one of the only species in the genus that's not critically endangered. It is still relatively common in the Brazilian rain forest, although the forest itself is decreasing in area by about 5-10% per year, so it will also soon be at risk. The common name of this plant is sometimes Chilean jasmine, but that common name actually refers to another plant, native to Argentina (yet another reason why common names of plants bother me...)

One of the characteristics of this plant that make it so attractive to gardeners (especially those with an indoor green thumb) are the strongly scented flowers. When in the appropriate location (in full to partial sun), these vines can reach heights up to 10 meters tall if given a support system in one growing season. If you want to encourage bushier growth, pruning the plant back almost to ground level every fall to encourage new growth in the spring would be best. The flowers can be tricked into being produced repeatedly during the growing season if the old flowers are pinched off (also called dead-heading). When grown in a container (either indoors or outdoors), it will rarely reach a height taller than a couple of meters.

There are no reports of this plant being toxic, but also none of it being edible. It is sometimes used in the perfume industry because of its scent, but doesn't have any other value aside from an ornamental plant. In the garden it will attract hummingbirds and butterflies because of the shape and colour of the flowers (and also a few bees...!).