Definitions

brugmansia suaveolens

Brugmansia

Brugmansia is a genus of six species of flowering plants in the family Solanaceae, native to subtropical regions of South America, along the Andes from Colombia to northern Chile, and also in southeastern Brazil. They are known as Angel's Trumpets, incorrectly sharing that name in the past with the closely related genus Datura, commonly known as "Thorn Apple". The genus differs from Datura in being perennial and woody (Datura species are herbaceous), and in having pendulous (not erect) flowers.

Species

  • Brugmansia arborea. Andes (Ecuador to northern Chile).
  • Brugmansia aurea. Andes (Colombia to Ecuador).
  • Brugmansia sanguinea. Andes (Colombia to Peru and Bolivia).
  • Brugmansia suaveolens. Southeast Brazil west to Bolivia and Peru.
  • Brugmansia versicolor. Ecuador.
  • Brugmansia vulcanicola. Colombia.

Description

Brugmansia are large shrubs or small trees, reaching heights of 3–11 m, with tan, slightly rough bark.

The leaves are alternate, generally large, 10–30 cm long and 4–18 cm broad, with an entire or coarsely toothed margin, and are covered with fine hairs.

The name Angel's Trumpet refers to the large, very dramatic, pendulous trumpet-shaped flowers, 14–50 cm to 20 inches long and 10–35 cm across at the wide end. They are white, yellow, pink, orange or red, and have a delicate, attractive scent with light, lemony overtones, most noticeable in early evening.

Cultivation

Brugmansia are easily grown in a moist, fertile, well-drained soil, in full sun to part shade, in frost-free climates. They begin to flower in mid to late spring in warm climates and continue into the fall, often continuing as late as early winter in warm conditions. In cool winters, outdoor plants need protection, but the roots are hardy and will resprout in April or May. The species from the higher elevations, B. sanguinea and B. vulcanicola, prefer moderate temperatures and cool nights, and may not flower if temperatures are very hot. Most Brugmansias may be propagated easily by rooting 10–20 cm cuttings taken from the end of a branch during the summer.

Several hybrids and numerous cultivars have been developed for use as ornamental plants. B. × candida is a hybrid between B. aurea and B. versicolor, while B. × insignis is a hybrid between B. suaveolens and B. versicolor. Some cultivars of B. × candida produce white, yellow, pale orange or pink flowers; B. × insignis produces white or peach flowers; B. versicolor flowers start off white and turn salmon pink. There are cultivars producing double flowers, and some with variegated leaves.

Uses

As with Datura, all parts of Brugmansia are highly toxic. The plants are sometimes ingested for recreational or shamanic intoxication as the plant contains the tropane alkaloids scopolamine and atropine; however because the potency of the toxic compounds in the plant is variable, the degree of intoxication is unpredictable and can be fatal.

Ritualized Brugmansia consumption is an important aspect of the shamanic complexes noted among many Indigenous peoples of western Amazonia, such as the Jivaroan speaking peoples. Likewise, it is a central component in the cosmology and shamanic practices of the Urarina peoples of Loreto, Peru.

Case Report

Seven young people, including one female, left a country town hotel (in south-eastern Australia) after drinking for several hours. They travelled in one car to a deserted garden, gathered some 50 flowers from a shrub, then set out to a site in the near-by bush where the flowers were divided and eaten. No further alcohol and no other drugs were consumed. Further information is uncertain but it seems that members of the group walked away from the site during the evening, disappearing into the adjacent bush.

One member of the party reached his home 24 hours later in a dazed and agitated condition. His parents, concerned for the safety of the second son who was still missing, called the police. The police described the boy who had returned as disoriented, perspiring profusely with dilated pupils and obviously terrified. When asked of the still missing brother he said, "They have shot W –, he's over the bank". Later, when recovered, he described his fear and how he imagined he was being chased by trees and people, armed with guns and spears. These hallucinations had continued even after he had reached home and were still present the next day.

Another member of the party was found that same evening, some 150 meters from the site, standing in a dry creek bed, leaning against and embracing a eucalyptus tree and apparently talking to it. When challenged he gave an unresponsive stare, but when asked about the missing brother, said, "There's W –, he's over there", pointing to his own coat lying on the ground. Other members of the group, except the missing brother, returned to their own homes that same evening, 24 hours after the flowers had been taken.

The police found the body of the missing brother, a man of 20, the next morning. He was lying in water 30 centimeters deep, face upwards, so that the face was only just covered by water. Post-mortem examination of the body showed irregularly dilated pupils and changes in the lungs consistent with drowning. Vegetable material from the flowers and stems of Brugmansia were recovered from the stomach. Analysis of liver, bile, stomach contents, blood and urine showed no other drugs. Death was thought to have occurred at least one day prior to the recovery of the body, that is, during the night the flowers were eaten.

Staff from the National Herbarium of Victoria and Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne, identified the plant from which the flowers were picked as Brugmansia arborea. Brugmansia ingestion and poisoning is rare in Australia, perhaps because of the terrifying rather than pleasurable hallucinogenic effect. The alkaloids may also produce a feeling of intense heat, which would explain why the deceased sought solace in the water and another discarded his coat.

Plant Registration

ABADS (American Brugmansia & Datura Society, Inc.), is designated in the 2004 edition of the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants [the 2004 Code] as the official International Cultivar Registration Authority [ICRA} for Brugmansia and Datura (Solanaceae). This role was delegated to ABADS by the International Society for Horticultural Science [ISHS] in 2002.

References and external links

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