Destroying my Carolina Jessamine perfume plants!

Sunday - 19 April 2015

I just discovered that this plant can kill honey bees! I had no idea, and this was my first year growing this pretty yellow-flowered fragrant plant. I have two plants, and I’ll be removing them, having my gardener destroy them this week. No perfume plant is worth endangering our fragile honeybee population. Thankfully, there haven’t many flowers yet, so I feel the danger to honeybees has been low, as far as my garden is concerned. Here’s a link to one of many articles warning about this plant, and others, that are harmful to honeybees.

Yellow jasmine, aka yellow jassamine, Gelsemium sempervirens, is very toxic to honeybees

Yellow jasmine, aka yellow jassamine, Gelsemium sempervirens, is very toxic to honeybees

11 thoughts on “Destroying my Carolina Jessamine perfume plants!

  1. David

    When I first saw your title I though it was going to be about the Neonic pesticides in the plants that Lowes and HD are selling.

    I had to pull up a bunch of new flowers last week for that very reason.

    THAT’s bad enough, but now it turns out that Mother Nature’s in the game too?

    Of course, if WE weren’t killing so many bees, I bet the honey bee population would be well able to survive naturally occuring threats from plants.

    Reply
  2. Anya Post author

    David are the neonic pesticides systemic, or spray on? How long do they persist? Most pesticides have a dissipation rate.

    Reply
    1. David

      Both maybe? …It’s a complex group of chemicals. The Wikipedia page gives you a good run down With exposure to sunlight, persistence is about 34 days.

      A week or two ago there was an article in the New York Times announcing that Lowes had agreed to stop selling plants where growers had used the pesticide —- in four years : /

      Home Depot has agreed to “lable” those plants — which they do by sticking one of the plastic “tags” down into the soil of the pot… so most people never read it or at least don’t see it until they get home.

      Wal Mart also sells them. Don’t know what the status is there. There may be others. I don’t have exhaustive information.

      But it’s the growers that are using them. I think now you have to ask everyone; every nursery.

      Reply
      1. David

        lol… Your blog stripped the link I tried to send.

        Fix this link —-> en.wikipedia.org – wiki – Neonicotinoid

        by using “/” for “-” with no spaces.

        Or Google “how do neonicotinoid pesticides work”

        Reply
  3. Rita

    I have just moved my honey bees from the owls house to the hive and will register my hive soon, so it was quite a shock learning about this plant as well as about pesticides L and HD are using. Thank You Anya and David for the info.

    Reply
  4. Susan Meeker-Lowry

    What I’ve learned about the neonicotinoids is that they are systemic so the whole plant becomes toxic.

    Reply
  5. carmelita

    Anya,
    There is no need to rip out one or two Carolina jessamine plants. If you do further research you will find that IF honeybees had NOTHING else to feed on, yes, the Carolina jessamine would harm them, BUT since you and other responsible gardens don’t plant a mono-culture garden, the bees will be fine. The most important thing is to give the bees a variety of nectar plants which bloom at all times of the year so they have options and are not forced to choose the Carolina jessamine. See what Lynn Hice. Polk County Master Gardener has to say on the subject.

    One very simple thing that everyone can do is to provide a clean water source for bees – a shallow dish with some pebbles where the bees can safely drink and receive adequate moisture as pictured in this link: .http://www.great-group-activities.com/honeybees.html

    Carolina jessamine is native to our country and is pollinted (in my area) by Bombus bimaculatus/Bumble Bees, Papilio glaucus/Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly; Osmia lignaria/Blue Orchard Bees which are native bees as well as Habropoda laboriosa/Blueberry Bees. Other wildlife depends on the plant such as the Sphinx moth and Cloudless Sulphur butterfly.

    We need to stop using Roundup; stop GMOs; I agree with the neonicotinoids/Imidacloprid/Clothianidin, etc. being totally bad for everything. It is not good enough that Lowe’s and/or Home Depot and other nurseries have put a label on the plants; we need to stop buying the plants treated with neonicotinoids – period.

    Rather than reading isolated reports/links, why not spend a few dollars and give some of your time to join your local beekeeper association. By attending a meeting once a month you can gain a wealth of knowledge and your ‘vote’ will be counted on critical issues. One does not need to be a beekeeper to join the clubs.

    Reply
    1. Anya Post author

      Carmelita, thanks for your reply, but please know I found out about this problem via a Florida beekeepers group I belong to. I did a lot of research, and made a reasoned decision based on the fact that since honey bees are under such stress already, I’m not going to contribute to it in any way simply because I want to grow an ornamental plant, that’s frivolous to me. Whether native or not, it’s in with a group of other plants, such as rhododendrons, azeleas, mountain laurel and many more that are harmful to bees. This problem has been known for many years, but thankfully more and more are getting the word via groups like the beekeepers.

      “From American Honey Plants, Frank C. Pellett, 1920 American Bee Journal

      YELLOW JASMINE (Gelsemium sempervirens).
      The yellow jasmine is a well-known poisonous climbing vine common to the Southern States from Virginia to Florida and west to Mexico. Its yellow flowers, in short axillary clusters, appear in early spring (February and March) and are very fragrant. The vine climbs over trees to a great height, often 30 feet or more. It yields pollen and probably some nectar. It is reported as poisonous to the bees.
      “For the past nine years I have observed, commencing with the opening of the yellow jasmine flowers, a very fatal disease attacking the young bees and continuing until the cessation of the bloom. The malady would then cease as quickly as it came. The symptoms of the poisoning are: The abdomen becomes very much distended, and the bees act as though intoxicated. There is great loss of muscular power. The bee, unless too far gone, slowly crawls out of the hive and very soon expires. The deaths in twenty-four hours, in strong stocks with much hatching brood, may amount to one-half pint, often much more. My observations have been verified by dozens of intelligent beekeep¬ers breeding pure Italians where Gelsemium abounds.”—Dr. J. P. H. Brown, American Bee Journal, Nov., 1879.
      As to the effect on animals poisoned by the plant we quote Pammel as follows :
      “Dr. Winslow gives the toxicological effect on animals as follows: Muscular weakness, especially in the forelegs, staggering gait and falling. These symptoms are followed by convulsive movements of the head, forelegs and sometimes of the hindlegs. The respiration is slow and feeble, temperature reduced, and there is sweating. Death occurs because of respiratory failure.”—Manual of Poisonous Plants.”

      and, from a USDA cooperative extension:
      http://www.extension.org/pages/44129/are-there-plants-that-produce-nectar-that-is-poisonous-to-either-honey-bees-or-humans#.VTUX8JOQcg4

      Reply
    2. Rachel

      I very much agree with carmelita about the benefits to native insect populations. It is worth noting two things here: (1) Honeybees are not native to North America, and as such are not well adapted to our plants here. They are highly prized and valuable both for their importance to our agricultural industry and as a source of honey. But as such, they are “kept” or tended, not a native wild bee. (2) There are many wild native bees that are dependent on Carolina Jessamine as a early nectar source. Carolina Jessamine (Gelsimium sempervirens) is native to the southeast US and grows wild and prolifically in many habitats there. Not planting it in your garden will have little effect on its prevalence in our country. More realistic advice is that if you are a beekeeper, you should probably not plant this in your yard. But otherwise, especially if you live in the southeast, you will be able to do little to keep it from existing. Nor should you- honeybees are not the only things to consider. Our native bees (and other insects) are also in need of these important nectar sources, and don’t get nearly as much attention as the honeybees even though they are (1) native and (2) just as important to our agricultural crops. In addition, the native plants need all the help they can get.

      Lastly, the article from 1857 seems to be the only research paper to support the claims- there does not seem to be any follow up study. Here is a link to a beekeeper website with reasonable information about how to deal with the “problem” of Carolina Jessamine if you are a beekeeper. https://beekeep.info/a-treatise-on-modern-honey-bee-management/managing-nutrition/poisonous-plants/

      So my conclusion is that there is no need to be alarmist or go ripping out your Gelsimium- just don’t plant it if you keep bees:)

      For the rest of us, enjoy the lovely blossoms of this Harbinger of Spring!

      Reply

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