Saturday, December 5, 2015

Wanderings in the Arboretum Collection: 臭茉莉 Chòu mò lì (Stink Jasmine; Glory Bower)

Clerodendrum chinense bloom.

Located in a patch of ground on the west side of the tropical greenhouse, the weedy looking green shoots of the Clerodendrum chinense pop up over an area of about 100 or so square feet. A native of China, this interesting plant has the nickname there of “Stink Jasmine”. Smelling the white, capitate clusters of blooms you are immediately impressed with their pleasant jasmine-like scent that somewhat borders on that of Gardenias. Why the “Stink Jasmine” moniker for this un-mint-like member of the mint (formerly the verbena) family?
Clerodendrum chinense plant

The answer to this riddle is quickly obtained with one ‘scratch and sniff’ of its leaves: they smell like rancid peanut butter. This same smell can be noticed on the Tree of Heaven (Ailianthus altissima) with which Clerodendrum chinense shares the first part of their common names in Chinese ( 臭茉莉 (Chòu mò lì ) meaning Stink Jasmine and 臭椿(Chòu Chun) meaning Stink Tree -being the symbol for ‘stink’ in Chinese). This specimen was first obtained from San Marcos Growers in 1994 under its old name Clerondendrun phillipinum. 

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