Deeper Into Jeopardy! XVIII: Gardening – $400

Jeopardy! category: GARDENING (05-12-2014)

$400 clue: Looking for a climber with fragrant flowers? Plant the star type of this shrub

Correct response

The gist: Not the rice or the Disney princess, but indeed the tea. 

Edit: reader Adam points out importantly that the “star jasmine,” at least in the States, often refers to the species Trachelospermum jasminoides, which is not a member of the true jasmine family Jasminum. However, there is a species of true jasmine, Jasminum multiflorum, that’s also known, among a few other names, as the “star jasmine,” and is also an aromatic climber that’s called a shrub by several gardening and botanical sources. In any case, the info in this post refers to flowers of the genus Jasminum.

Jasmine is a genus of shrubs and vines (hence the “climber” in the clue), and part of the olive family. The plants in the genus vary pretty widely, but tend to have light-coloured flowers (mostly white or yellow), with a a bell-shaped calyx (that’s the technical term for all the sepals of a flower taken together). Native to many tropical regions of the Asia and Africa, jasmine species have been both to Europe and to the hot parts of North America and Australia, where they’ve become invasive species.

As for gardening, jasmines are often planted for their aesthetically pleasing flowers as well as for their distinctly pleasant aroma. That aroma also makes the plant well-suited for tea, usually complimenting a green tea base, and as a flavouring agent and perfume ingredient. The genus also gives its names to the Tunisian revolutions of 1987 and 2011, which saw both the installment and overthrow of Zine El Abidine ben Ali as the country’s president (he’s now avoiding extradition in Saudi Arabia). Various jasmine species are also the national flowers of Pakistan, Indonesia, and the Philippines.

Jasminum sambac in the outdoors

The clue: This one’s certainly a toughie, well indicated by the fact that it stumped this game’s three illustrious contestants. All they’re telling you is that it climbs, it’s fragrant, and it has a “star” type? Unless you know quite specifically about the star jasmine, I don’t see how you could get this one. They didn’t, and neither did I.

In Jeopardy!: “Jasmine” appears in 19 clues in the J!Archive, although one is about Woody Allen’s recent Blue Jasmine, two are about the rice, and seven are only about the aforementioned princess of Agrabah in Aladdin (another two mention both the flower and the princess). Five of the clues mention the plant’s distinct smell, and two (including this one) mention its climbing tendencies. Putting the smell, the Disney, and the climbing together, you get pretty much what Jeopardy! expects you to know about this flower.

4 thoughts on “Deeper Into Jeopardy! XVIII: Gardening – $400

  1. I actually did get this right! I have the benefit of growing up with a gardening-minded mother so I have a large passive memory of “plant names”

  2. Hate to be pedantic, but the clue refers to Star Jasmine, which is distinct from Jasmine. Trachelospermum jasminoides (the scientific name) is the true subject here, although it surely doesn’t have the interesting history that you described of true Jasmine (genus Jasminum). I will say that it (star jasmine) is a very common and dependable groundcover/vine in California landscapes. While it obviously has some similarities, it is not jasmine. I will say that the wording of the clue is misleading, though. Star jasmine is not a “type” pf jasmine anymore than poison oak is a type of oak.

    • No need to excuse that kind of pedantry here. You’re absolutely right, and I should absolutely have mentioned that fact in my post. I agree that the clue is misleading, though. A generous interpretation of what “type” means (like a more qualitative definition than a scientific, taxonomic one) could render the clue “not wrong,” at least. There is, however, a species of true jasmine, Jasminum multiflorum, that is apparently known as the star jasmine, but I can’t find any mention of it being a climber like the clue refers to, so it definitely seems like the clue is referring to the non-jasmine “star jasmine.”

      UPDATE: I’ve done a little more research, and it seems that the “star jasmine” Jasminum multiflorum is in fact a climber with aromatic flowers that’s called a shrub by several sources, including Floridata (http://www.floridata.com/ref/j/jasm_mul.cfm), the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Botany Department (http://www.math.hawaii.edu/~dale/myers/flowers/page13.htm), and GardenGuides.com (http://www.gardenguides.com/taxonomy/star-jasmine-jasminum-multiflorum/). I do still think it’s likely that the writers were confused when they wrote the clue, but they may have lucked out thanks to lots of flowers having lots of different names.

  3. Good research and good point. I guess the best defense against pedantry is more pedantry. Thanks for a great website – I found it through reddit. You really go deep!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *