March 2011

Jasminum mesnyi

Text and photographs by Bob Mitchell
      Everyone is aware of the winter jasmine - Jasminum nudiflorum which featured here in February 2008.  But not so many know of the yellow winter-flowering Jasminum mesnyi.  It is not a hardy plant in Scotland, though.   Given cool temperate conditions this plant produces a striking display from December for many months.  Its peak flowering time is February to April.

     Jasminum belongs to the olive family and has over 450 species according to Mabberley but about 200 by the specialist, Peter Green.  They are mainly tropical.  The vast majority have white flowers.  A few species have yellow flowers and there are eight species in the Section Alternifolia: two with yellow flowers with opposite leaves - Jasminum nudiflorum and Jasminum mesnyi .

     Jasminum mesnyi comes from south west China - Guizhou, south-west Sechuan and Yunnan where it grows in ravines and woodland, although it is also widely cultivated.  We saw it growing near to the Caa Xi Temple at Anning close to Kunming in 1981.   Jasminum mesnyi was introduced by Ernest Wilson for the James Veitch nursery in 1900.  Since Wilson could not find seed, Jasminum mesnyi was introduced as a plant through Hong Kong .

     Jasminum mesnyi is a tender, evergreen, scrambling climber.  The leaves are opposite and trifoliate.  The semi-double, yellow flowers are solitary on sideshoots.  They are about the same colour and size of a primrose hence its other name - Jasminum primulinum, named by Hemsley at Kew in 1895, but now reduced as a synonym .   It is widely grown in warm temperate climes.  Jasminum mesnyi featured in Curtis Botanical Magazine t. 7981in 1904 and received a First Class Certificate in 1903 and an Award of Garden Merit in 1993.

     Ernest Wilson (1876-1930) was born in Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire and, after serving his apprenticeship at Birminghan Botanic Garden and thence as a gardener to Kew, he became firstly a collector for James Veitch in 1899 and from 1906 for Charles Sprague Sargent of the Arnold Arboretum where in 1927 he became Keeper.  In his travels to China and Japan particularly, although he collected in Australasia as well, over 1000 new species were discovered by Wilson of which 100 have received First Class Certificates.  The first was Jasminum mesnyi in 1903.   There is a Ernest Wilson Memorial Garden in his birthplace - Chipping Campden - mostly with plants introduced by him. 

     Jasminum mesnyi is named for William Mesny (1842-1919) who was born in Jersey and settled in China in 1860, where he lived for 59 years.  He is described as an adventurer, mercenary and writer, and became a Major-General in the Chinese Imperial Army at the age of 29.  Mesny also collected plants and sent them to Canton and the British consul, Henry Fletcher Hance (1827-1886), who named it in the Journal of Botany 20: 37 in 1882.


Jasminum mesnyi will grow in most soils.  We grow it in open soil where it needs little attention.  It is sometimes grown in a pot as a standard tree with trailing shoots.  The potted plant can be taken outdoors during the frost free season.  Pruning after flowering will encourage new growth on which it will flower the following year and will keep it within bounds.


Since it hardly ever produces seed, ripened summer shoots will root well indoors in a moist atmosphere.  Like Jasminum nudiflorum, Jasminum mesnyi will also grows from layers, saving a lot of time and effort.  It features in the RHS Plant Finder. 


Jasminum mesnyi is growing in the Rhododendron House on the left gable at the south door.  Grid H7 (click for location map)

Bean, W.J. 1973.  Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles. 8th Edition. Vol. 2: 465.
Curtis' Botanical Magazine t. 7981. (1904).
Green, Peter S. 1988. Jasminum in The Plantsman 10 (3): 148-159.
Green, Peter S. 1997. Jasminum in The European Garden Flora Vol. V: 590. 
Wu Zheng-yi and Peter Raven et al.  1994.  Flora of China (English Edition) 15: 311.