Thursday, September 27, 2012
The Dama de Noche, or the Night Blooming Jasmine is the plant that takes centerstage on the onset of Halloween. This one has a strong fragrance and it’s an old fashioned heritage plant that is often seen in old ancestral homes. It is widely cultivated here in the Philippines and was introduced from tropical America during the Spanish era.
Botanically known as Cestrum nocturnum, this is a climbing evergreen shrub with a height of six to 10 feet, and a canopy width of about six feet in diameter. It is often adorned with showy night-blooming white flower clusters. It belongs to the Solanaceae plant family and is closely related to the tomato, potato and pepper. The flowers have a very bold fragrance which can give anyone a creepy feeling of ghosts hovering around.
The plant is easy to grow. It requires full sun exposure though it could be planted under partially shaded areas. It thrives well in constantly moist soil, particularly sandy loam to clay loam soils, moderately mixed with decomposed plant litter. You just have to fertilize the plant twice a year, preferably before and after the rainy season. It is best to apply additional phosphorus fertilizers to enhance root development and for continuous flowering. It’s a fast grower so you’ll have to pinch the foliage and prune its flowers to maintain its compact growth.
The Dama de Noche plants are often affected by leaf spot diseases, usually coming from bacterial or fungi, especially during the rainy season. For disease control, always remove diseased leaves and dead twigs, and for severe infestation, apply a mild solution of fungicide during the rainy season at a rate of once every month for three months.
This plant’s leaves are mildly toxic to animals. The leaf extract has an anti-bacterial activity and a highly effective larvicidal activity against mosquito larvae (or wringlers) of Aedes aegypti, the carrier of Dengue..
The Dama de Noche can easily be propagated from seeds which come from the fruit berries that developed from the pollinated flowers. At times, the plant can become a noxious weed when left unchecked.
By NORBY BAUTISTA