Nicotiana, Jasmine (Nicotiana alata)

Nicotiana, Jasmine (Nicotiana alata)

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The enchanting white blossoms of Nicotiana alata emit a wonderful jasmine-scented perfume in the dusk and evening hours. They sometimes may have a palette of red, pink, or green. Such a plant is great for attracting nocturnal pollinators like Hawk moths, and makes for a pleasant experience out in the garden or by an open window when the moon is high.Their scent can drift as far as 30 feet. By the following day’s onset into darkness, the previous night’s blooms will have gone through their life cycle and are replaced by new ones— a fleeting cycle that sets mortality against the decadent allure of their aroma. Once the showy trumpet-like flowers set seed, they will self-sow and continue on in the following year. 

Jasmine Scented Nicotiana, native to Brazil and northeastern Argentina, was introduced to English and American gardens through the mid-1800s, and Victorian growers prized them for their fragrance. Folks in this area also soaked the leaves and used the infusion from this as a pesticide. The genus name of this plant references the French ambassador to Lisbon, Jean Nicot, who introduced tobacco to France, and the specific epithet means ‘winged’ for their wing-like leaves. Other common names include Flowering Tobacco or Winged Tobacco. A member of the nightshade family, this plant is generally cultivated now for ornamental purposes, rather than its cousins grown to harvest for smoking. All parts of the plant are toxic, and one should only take in the plant’s constituents via a deep whiff through the nose.