Jasminum sambac, the Arabian jasmine, is a species of jasmine native to a small region in the eastern Himalayas in Bhutan and neighbouring Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. It is cultivated in many places, especially across much of South and Southeast Asia. It is naturalised in many scattered locales: Mauritius, Madagascar, the Maldives, Cambodia, Indonesia, Christmas Island, Chiapas, Central America, southern Florida, the Bahamas, Cuba, Hispaniola, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and the Lesser Antilles.
Jasminum sambac is a small shrub or vine growing up to 0.5 to 3 m (1.6 to 9.8 ft) in height. It is widely cultivated for its attractive and sweetly fragrant flowers. The flowers may be used as a fragrant ingredient in perfumes and jasmine tea. It is the national flower of the Philippines, where it is known as sampaguita, as well as being one of the three national flowers of Indonesia, where it is known as melati putih.
Despite the English common name of "Arabian jasmine", Jasminum sambac is not originally native to Arabia. The habits of Jasminum sambac support a native habitat of humid tropical climates and not the arid climates of the Middle East. Early Chinese records of the plant points to the origin of Jasminum sambac as eastern South Asia and Southeast Asia. Jasminum sambac (and nine other species of the genus) were spread into Arabia and Persia by man, where they were cultivated in gardens. From there, they were introduced to Europe where they were grown as ornamentals and were known under the common name "sambac" in the 18th century.
Medieval Arabic "zanbaq" meant jasmine flower-oil from the flowers of any species of jasmine. This word entered late medieval Latin as "sambacus" and "zambacca" with the same meaning as the Arabic, and then in post-medieval Latin plant taxonomy the word was adopted as a label for the J. sambac species. The J. sambac species is a good source for jasmine flower-oil in terms of the quality of the fragrance and it continues to be cultivated for this purpose for the perfume industry today. The Jasminum officinale species is also cultivated for the same purpose, and probably to a greater extent.
In 1753, Carl Linnaeus first described the plant as Nyctanthes sambac in the first edition of his famous book Systema Naturae. In 1789, William Aiton reclassified the plant to the genus Jasminum. He also coined the common English name of "Arabian jasmine", cementing the misconception that it was Arabian in origin.
Other common names of Jasminum sambac include:
Jasminum sambac is an evergreen vine or shrub reaching up to 0.5 to 3 m (1.6 to 9.8 ft) tall. The species is highly variable, possibly a result of spontaneous mutation, natural hybridization, and autopolyploidy. Cultivated Jasminum sambac generally do not bear seeds and the plant is reproduced solely by cuttings, layering, marcotting, and other methods of asexual propagation.
The leaves are ovate, 4 to 12.5 cm (1.6 to 4.9 in) long and 2 to 7.5 cm (0.79 to 2.95 in) wide. The phyllotaxy is opposite or in whorls of three, simple (not pinnate, like most other jasmines). They are smooth (glabrous) except for a few hairs at the venation on the base of the leaf.
The flowers bloom all throughout the year and are produced in clusters of 3 to 12 together at the ends of branches. They are strongly scented, with a white corolla 2 to 3 cm (0.79 to 1.18 in) in diameter with 5 to 9 lobes. The flowers open at night (usually around 6 to 8 in the evening), and close in the morning, a span of 12 to 20 hours. The fruit is a purple to black berry 1 cm (0.39 in) in diameter.
The sweet, heady fragrance of Jasminum sambac is its distinct feature. It is widely grown throughout the tropics from the Arabian peninsula to Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands as an ornamental plant and for its strongly scented flowers. Numerous cultivars currently exist.
Typically, the flowers are harvested as buds during early morning. The flower buds are harvested on basis of color, as firmness and size are variable depending on the weather. The buds have to be white, as green ones may not emit the characteristic fragrance they are known for. Open flowers are generally not harvested as a larger amount of them is needed to extract oils and they lose their fragrance sooner.
J. sambac does not tolerate being frozen, so in temperate regions must be grown under glass, in an unheated greenhouse or conservatory. It has an intense fragrance which some people may find overpowering. In the UK this plant has gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.
Jasminum sambac (Filipino: sampaguita from Indian Sanskrit word Champaka) was adopted by the Philippines as the national flower on 1 February 1934 via Proclamation No. 652 issued by American Governor-General Frank Murphy. Filipinos string the flowers into leis, corsages, and sometimes crowns. These garlands are available as loose strings of blossoms or as tight clusters of buds, and are commonly sold by poor children outside churches and near intersections.
Sampaguita garlands are used as a form of bestowing honour, veneration, or accolade. These are primarily used to adorn religious images and photographs of the dead on altars. These are placed around the necks of living persons such as dignitaries, visitors, and occasionally to graduating students. Buds strung into ropes several metres long are often used to decorate formal events such state occasions at Malacañang Palace, weddings, and are sometimes used as the ribbon in ribbon cutting ceremonies. Though edible, the flower is rarely used in cuisine, with an unusual example being flavouring for ice cream.
Jasminum sambac was the subject of the danza song La Flor de Manila, composed by Dolores Paterno in 1879 at the age of 25. The song was popular during the Commonwealth and is now regarded as a romantic classic. The flower is also the namesake of the song Collar de Sampaguita.
Jasminum sambac (Indonesian: melati putih) is one of the three national flowers in Indonesia, the other two being the moon orchid and the giant padma. Although the official adoption were announced only as recent as 1990 during World Environment Day and enforced by law through Presidential Decree No. 4 in 1993, the importance of Jasminum sambac in Indonesian culture long predates its official adoption. Since the formation of Indonesian republic during the reign of Sukarno, melati putih is always unofficially recognized as the national flower of Indonesia. The reverence and its elevated status mostly due to the importance of this flower in Indonesian tradition since ancient times.
It has long been considered a sacred flower in Indonesian tradition, as it symbolizes purity, sacredness, graceful simplicity and sincerity. It also represents the beauty of modesty; a small and simple white flower that can produce such sweet fragrance. It is also the most important flower in wedding ceremonies for ethnic Indonesians, especially in the island of Java. Jasmine flower buds that have not fully opened are usually picked to create strings of jasmine garlands (Javanese: roncen melati). On wedding days, a traditional Javanese or Sundanese bride's hair is adorned with strings of jasmine garlands arranged as a hairnet to cover the konde (hair bun). The intricately intertwined strings of jasmine garlands are left to hang loose from the bride's head. The groom's kris is also adorned with five jasmine garlands called roncen usus-usus (intestine garlands) to refer its intestine-like form and also linked to the legend of Arya Penangsang. In Makassar and Bugis brides, the hair is also adorned with buds of jasmine that resemble pearls. Jasmine is also used as floral offerings for hyangs, spirits and deities especially among Balinese Hindu, and also often present during funerals. In South Sumatran traditional costume, the bungo melati pattern in Palembang songket fabrics depicts the jasmine to represent beauty and femininity.
The jasmine has wide spectrums in Indonesian traditions; it is the flower of life, beauty and festive wedding, yet it is also often associated with spirit and death. In Indonesian patriotic songs and poems, the fallen melati often hailed as the representation of fallen heroes that sacrificed their life and died for the country, the very similar concept with fallen sakura that represent fallen heroes in Japanese tradition. The Ismail Marzuki's patriotic song "Melati di Tapal Batas" (jasmine on the border) (1947) and Guruh Sukarnoputra's "Melati Suci" (sacred jasmine) (1974) clearly refer jasmine as the representation of fallen heroes, the eternally fragrance flower that adorned Ibu Pertiwi (Indonesian national personification). The Iwan Abdurachman's "Melati dari Jayagiri" (jasmine from Jayagiri mountain) refer jasmine as the representation of the pure unspoiled beauty of a girl and also a long lost love.
In Hawaii, the flower is known as pikake, and are used to make fragrant leis. The name 'pikake' is derived from the Hawaiian word for "Peacock", because the Hawaiian Princess Kaʻiulani was fond of both the flowers and the bird.
It is one of the most commonly grown ornamentals in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, where it is native. They are used to make thick garlands used as hair adornments. In Oman, Jasminum sambac features prominently on a child's first birthday. Flowers are sprinkled on the child's head by other children while chanting "hol hol". The fragrant flowers are also sold packed in between large leaves of the Indian almond (Terminalia catappa) and sewn together with strips of date palm leaves.
In Sri Lanka it is widely known as pichcha or gaeta pichcha. The name sithapushpa and katarolu are also used in older texts. The flowers are used in Buddhist temples and in ceremonial garlands.
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