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Botanical Buzz - Gardenia

Friday, January 09, 2015

Heavenly scents are entrancing visitors at Shoyoen, Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden.

The Magnolias (Magnolia grandiflora), Chinese Star Jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides ) and the Gardenias (Gardenia augusta Florida a variety of Gardenia jasminoides) are all in flower and their white and creamy white flowers are producing a spectacular visual display and an olfactory delight.

Of these beautiful plants Gardenia jasminoides has an ancient and particularly fascinating history.

The genus Gardenia belongs in the coffee family, Rubiaceae and was named after the Scottish-born American doctor and botanist Dr Alexander Garden FRS (1730-91). Although Alexander Garden was declared to be “the most famous physician of colonial times” he might have disappeared into the mists of time were it not for the plants named after him.

Gardenia jasminoides is a tropical evergreen plant native to Asia and has been bewitching plant lovers for over one thousand years.   There is evidence that Gardenia jasminoides was cultivated in China during the Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD). Both wild and double-flowered forms are depicted in paintings from that period.

The delicate white fragrant blooms are used in the lei necklaces of the Hawaiian islands, as boutonnières (buttonholes) for men in formal dress and are one of the classic wedding flowers. Gardenia jasminoides is also the national flower of Pakistan.

Gardenias are called “kuchinashi” in Japanese. This literally means “no mouth” and is a reference to the fruits which do not open, even when ripe.

In Japan the ancient game of “Go”, is traditionally played on tables which sit on four feet shaped like kuchinashi. This is supposed to suggest that onlookers keep their mouths closed and refrain from making comments during games.

Gardenia fruits are used in China both as a source of yellow dye and for various unsubstantiated medicinal uses.

Beautiful flowers, delightful scents and fascinating histories; a visit to the Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden is always memorable.