Night Scented Jasmine

Cestrum nocturnum
Photo by Forest and Kim Starr
Shrub
Alternate
Simple
Green
Yellow
Cream
Green

An upright shrub or small tree up to 4m high, its young twigs are sparsely finely hairy; the undersurface of the leaf midrib is finely hairy; the leaves have an unpleasant odour when crushed. Flowers are greenish white to cream coloured and are produced in terminal panicles or clusters; the flowers are very strongly perfumed (said to resemble the aroma of "sweet custard powder") and the perfume is released during the hours of early evening and then into the night. The fruits are long oval to globular berries that are at first green but then become white.

Common names 
Also known as: evening scented jessamine, jessamine, lady of the night, night cestrum, night jessamine, night queen, night-blooming jasmine, night-flowering cestrum, night-flowering jasmine, night blooming cestrum, queen of the night, bastard jasmine,
Family 
Solanaceae
Deciduous 
No
Native/Exotic 
Exotic
Origin 
Native to Mexico, Central America (i.e. Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama) and Cuba.
Notifiable 
No
State declaration 
Nil
Council declaration 
NIL - Reduce
Known distribution 

Naturalised in the coastal districts of central and northern New South Wales and sparingly naturalised in south-eastern Queensland.

Habitat 

Cestrum nocturnum thrives in moist or wet forests, scrub and open areas (both natural and disturbed).

Cestrum nocturnum has already invaded wet forests and open areas on several islands in the Pacific region. In New Zealand, the species is able to form dense stands in the forest understorey, but it has also invaded open forests, forest margins, the sides of streams and shrublands.

The species has invaded similar areas in Australia and is reported to be naturalised in coastal areas of northern New South Wales.

Habit 

This species forms an evergreen, upright and woody shrub or small tree; heights normally reach up to 4m, however some individual specimens may reach 5 m.

Impact and control methods 

Night jessamine (Cestrum nocturnum) has a negative impact on native ecosystems because it can form dense, shady thickets that outcompete the native flora and thus it prevents natural regeneration. It grows quickly and reproduces by both cuttings and seeds.  In Auckland (New Zealand) the species is considered a seriously invasive weed. Cestrum nocturnum has also invaded areas of some of the Pacific Islands where it has formed dense and virtually impenetrable thickets.

All parts of Cestrum nocturnum are highly toxic and there are reports of livestock deaths in New Zealand through this species.  There is a report of a child who ingested the green berries over several weeks, however although the symptoms were considerable with vomiting and bleeding, the child recovered. So far there are no reports of human deaths.

As a garden escapee, Cestrum nocturnum has invaded land near Sydney (New South Wales) and it is also reported as present in areas of coastal northern New South Wales.

Stem and leaves 

The branches are somewhat flexuous (bending and twining) and are sparsely finely hairy (pubescent) with simple hairs. The smaller twigs especially, exhibit these hairs.

The leaves are long, elliptical and lanceolate (resembling a spear-head), 6-15 cm long and 2-7 cm wide; smooth and glossy with even margins with petioles about 0.4-0.8 cm long.  Lateral veins curving inside the blade margin but not forming definite loops.The mid-rib undersurface is finely hairy.

Flowers and fruits 

The flowers are produced at the ends of the branches where they occur as dense clusters of flowers on short stems that emerge from the junctions of the leaves and the twigs. The result is a densely crowded end cluster of both flowers and leaves. The flowers are tubular, greenish white to cream (there is a known yellow variety) and the top of the tube splits into five sharply pointed, triangular lobes or petals.  The tubular section of the flower is 2-2.5 cm long and the opened flower at night is about 1-1.3 cm in diameter. The stamens and anthers are contained within the floral tube.

The fruits are berries, globose, at first green then becoming white, 8-12 mm diameter.  The calyx stays fixed to the fruit. There may be up to 10 seeds in a single fruit and each seed is about 4-5 x 2-2.5 mm.

Reproduction and dispersal 

This species reproduces by abundantly produced seeds which can remain dormant in the soil for many years.  However it can also reproduce through accidental damage which has resulted in dispersed stem or root sections.

Similar species 

Red cestrum (Cestrum elegans) is also present in South East Queensland, however this species has showy, bright red clusters of flowers.