A group of LSU students is calling for the eradication of Trachelospermum jasminoides, a flowering plant commonly known as Confederate jasmine.
The outcry comes amid a growing nationwide trend of politicians and activists arguing for the removal of Confederate imagery from public spaces in the wake of the massacre of nine black worshippers by a white supremacist at a historic black church in Charleston, SC.
Linda Buchanan-Riley, a spokeswoman for the students seeking the removal of the ornamental climbing evergreen, says Confederate jasmine is a symbol of “systemic oppression” and has no place on the campus of a public university.
“Every time a student, staff member, or visitor walks by one of those fragrant representations of racism and human subjugation,” explains Buchanan-Riley, “not only does it serve as a painful, odiferous reminder of this nation’s hate-filled past, but its lily-white flowers symbolize the myriad modern-day prejudices and social injustices suffered by all peoples of color.”
Buchanan-Riley maintains that if university officials don’t comply with the group’s demands, it has raised enough funds to purchase several gallons of Roundup weed killer and its members are “more than willing” to take matters into their own hands.
“Not only does it serve as a painful, odiferous reminder of this nation’s hate-filled past, but its lily-white flowers symbolize the myriad modern-day prejudices and social injustices suffered by all peoples of color.”
Meanwhile, Kappa Alpha fraternity President Kyle Hamilton calls the group’s demands “ridiculous” and its claims regarding the plant’s symbolism “outrageous.”
“Lots of us here in the South grew up around Confederate jasmine,” Hamilton insists. “It’s part of our heritage. There’s nothing hateful about it.”
Hamilton says he’s mystified by Buchanan-Riley and her group’s vehement opposition to a blooming plant.
“I’m surprised a bunch of tree-hugging hippies could hate an innocent, greenhouse-gas-eating plant,” Hamilton quips. “I guess they’re all about flower power, so long as it’s not white flower power.”
In addition to being a popular ornamental vine and groundcover in the southeastern United States, Hamilton says Confederate jasmine offers more than just pretty flowers and a pleasant fragrance.
“Confederate jasmine helps choke out less-desirable plants and keeps them from getting out of control. It keeps inferior species in their place,” he says. “We need to fight to preserve the pure, white flower of the Confederate jasmine, or else undesirables like the deadly nightshade or wandering Jew will rise up and destroy all we have worked to build.”