Crape jasmine is a fragrant flowering shrub originating in India and Southeast Asia, its natural range extending from the foothills of the Himalayas south to Visakhapatnam, on the Bay of Bengal, and east through Bangladesh and Myanmar (Burma) to southern China.
It is moderately fast-growing to heights of up to 5 m (16 ft) in its natural habitat, though is more typically 1 to 3 m (3 to 10 ft) tall with branching starting close to the ground and wide-spreading, forming a densely leafy dome-shaped crown. The bark is grey, wrinkled, marked by leaf scars and exudes a milky sap when wounded.
The leaves are oval, 8 to 15 cm (3 to 6 in) long, dark glossy green, prominently veined and have a leathery texture. They are arranged in opposite pairs at the ends of the branches and are evergreen, remaining on the plant in all seasons.
The flowers are trumpet-shaped, about 4 cm (1.6 in ) across, with five waxy white petals in a pin-wheel arrangement. They are borne singularly or in small clusters at the tips of the branches and come into bloom from spring through autumn. Though sweetly fragrant, their scent must be enjoyed at night, as it evaporates in the heat of the day. Their best display is also at night, especially on moonlight nights, due to the waxy petals which make the flowers luminous.
The fruit are rare but when produced are curved, ribbed, cylindrical seedpods up to 7 cm (2.8 in) long, borne in pairs. They have inside three to six small seed, embedded in fleshy orange or bright red pulp.
It is commonly cultivated in gardens for its showy, sweetly fragrant flowers, glossy green foliage and shapely form which, with its low-branching habit, lends to it being grown as a fragrant hedge. It is considered a sacred plant in India, with the flowers offered as Puja in Hindu temples.
The wood is aromatic and it is sometimes burnt as an incense substitute in parts of its native range.
In traditional Indian or Ayurvedic medicine, juice from the flower buds is mixed with oil and applied to the skin to treat inflammation and externally to the eyes as treatment against Ophthalmia, or inflammation of the eyes.
Grows naturally in moderately humid to humid subtropical and tropical lowland to mid-elevation climates, generally in frost-free areas with annual lows of 16 to 25 °C, annual highs of 25 to 35 °C, annual rainfall of 800 to 2500 mm and a dry season of 8 months or less.
New plants are usually started from cuttings or using air-layering (circumposing) methods, as seed are not always readily available. It performs best on rich, free-draining clay, loam and sand soils of an acid to slightly acid nature, generally with a pH of 4.5 to 6.5. It is a shy bloomer under shade, with the most abundant blooms on plants under full to partial sun exposure.
Although recorded as escaping from cultivation in at least one reference publication, it is unlikely to become a serious weed on account of its shy seeding habit.
The roots are thought to contain a poison, but its effects on humans and livestock are unknown.
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