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Murraya paniculata (L.) Jack 1820
pronounced: mer-RAY-yuh pan-ick-yoo-LAH-tuh
(Rutaceae — the lemon family)
common names: Orange Jessamine, Mock Orange
The genus was named for Johann Andreas Murray. This interesting man, who lived from 1740 to 1791, was both a medical doctor and a botanist. He studied under Linnaeus at Uppsala. He taught medicine at Göttingen from 1764, and was director of the city’s botanic gardens from 1769. He wrote, among many other books on medicine, pharmacy and botany, a mighty six-volumed tome on the therapeutic value of plants, and it was Linnaeus himself who named this genus after him. Panicula is the Latin word for a tuft or panicle, and refers to the flower clusters.
The Orange Jessamine is a bushy tree that can grows up to about 6 metres tall (although most end up between 2 and 3 metres), bearing beautiful white flowers that are very fragrant (redolent of the fragrance of orange blossom). It is evergreen and flowers freely, sometimes with multiple flowering periods through the year. There is a variety of the plant native to Australia, but the ones found in our gardens are usually of Asian origin. It is evergreen, with fairly dense foliage, with small glabrous and glossy leaves occurring in between three and nine oddly pinnate leaflets. The leaflets are dark green, ovate to elliptic, the upper ones larger than the lower ones. They smell of citrus when crushed.
The fruit is fleshly, oblong-ovate, up to about 1.5 cm long, that ripens to an orange-red colour. There are one or two hairy seeds per fruit, with a high germination rate. Seed is mostly spread by birds.
Not only is the fruit of this plant popular with many birds, but its flowers are much loved by both bees and nectar-feeding birds. Here the sunbirds are particularly fond of them. Catherpillars that feed on the plant include those of:
Orange Jessamine is sometimes used as a root stock for grafting on varieties of lemons and oranges. It is also, unfortunately, the preferred host to the insect pest Diaphorina citri, the citrus psyllid. This psyllid (a host-specific plant louse that feeds on plant juices) is the vector for the citrus greening disease. In some areas of north-eastern NSW, the plant has spread considerably and has been declared an environmental weed.
The plant is also suitable for using as a hedge, and trims attractively for this purpose. It is often grown as a bonsai tree.
There is a new dwarf variety, Min-a-Min, that grows to a height of about 1 m, with much smaller glossy leaves. It has highly scented flowers, and can be clipped into a low hedge. A hedge of this variety has been planted in front of one of the houses in the beachfront Dunoon development at Picnic Bay.
Various extracts are used in Chinese herbal medicine. An extract from the dried leaves is used orally for rheumatism, ulcer pain, toothache, stomach ache, abscesses and eczema, and one from the roots for, among other ailments, tinea and bronchitis.
Although only small amounts of timber are normally available from this plant, the wood is hard, and is frequently used for making tool handles. In Malaya is much prized for kris handles, usually made from the beautifully figured rootwood. In Taiwan it is used for making bows. In Java and some other parts of southern Asia it is used for making walking sticks and cutlery handles.
Information about medicinal qualities of plants, or about their use as medicines, is for interest only, and is not intended to be used as a guide for the treatment of medical conditions.
Photographs taken in Picnic Bay 2009-2014
Page last updated 28th January 2018