In Costa Rica, la reina de la noche, aka Angel's Trumpet, which is maybeBrugmansia suaveolens, is exactly the right stuff for imaginative legends and all sorts of romantic myths.
While there, I've been given the serious and sombre advice that the blooms are (fatally) intoxicating, and I've been gravely informed that if you plant this species in your garden in the USA, "you will go to jail".
I don't regard these warnings overly seriously, as I'm sure I've seen the same species, or else a good lookalike, in Vancouver. And so far I've never fallen into any deep spells from this plant when I've been visiting Costa Rica. [er—but, then, how would I know?] :-)
May I please have a scientific identification, so I might learn the (no doubt, rather prosaic) scientific truths about this plant?
I took these photos in Costa Rica. (Not Vancouver.) Thank you.
Thank you, Saltcedar. As you implicitly agreed with the scientific name, I followed up your references as well as others for Brugmansia suaveolens.
So it would appear the plant is not likely to send anyone to jail, although it may send them on a trip with a less definite destination. It seems to have qualities that are either poisonous or hallucinatory, depending on one's interests.
(I once knew a science librarian here who was expert on mushroom identification; but his reputation caused him problems. Young people frequently brought him mushrooms to identify. He told me that, whenever he identified any as poisonous, his vistors would go away in great delight, obviously anticipating the mushrooms' effects with glee.)
We all have a great many items around our homes which would be fatal if we ate them. No doubt Brugmansia suaveolens' legends and myths arise from the plants' seeds and leaves being dangerous to eat. I think my computer's motherboard likewise has components that would be dangerous to eat.
However, my reading suggests that unless I have a particular interest in more than just looking, la reina de la noche and I should get along just fine. Good heavens, I'm sure quite a few of my past human acquaintances were more dangerous than that.
It's a Brugmansia, but not B. suaveolens, which has white flowers. This is more like B. versicolor or maybe one of the hybrids that have become popular in the last 2 or 3 decades. I would assume that all Brugmansias contain the toxic+hallucinogenic alkaloids, though possibly in varying concentrations.
While there, I've been given the serious and sombre advice that the blooms are (fatally) intoxicating...
I've attempted to discuss on various garden forums how the daturas and brugs are far less dangerous than the hysterics would have us believe...
I'm always met with an argument.
To understand the principle involved, you might try discussing the danger of having poisonous snakes on your property with those people who hate them.
I've heard all kinds of idiocy about snakes, and I've lived with snakes in my garden for years. Leave them alone... no problems... I used to have rattlers that would crawl out of my way when I came by with a wheelbarrow full of compost.
The daturas and brugmansias are hallucinatory, and it's not much fun, but you don't get an accidental dose.
I've gotten juice and sawdust in my eyes when using a chainsaw to cut them down at the end of the growing season... It isn't much fun, my pupils enlarge... but no trip...
Speaking from personal experience, If you wanted to trip, you would have to consume a healthy amount of leaves or flowers or whatever... or make a tea... but I've never experienced an effect by smoking the plant...
Smelling the flowers? remember dotty n the poppies? Artistic liberties. People say stuff... we all like to entertain...
I've read that you can give the hallucinatory experience a boost with a bit of thorazine... Anything that interacts with thorazine is scary...
This is not a party drug... And warnings are appropriate, but the scare stories are absurd.
Stone, I agree completely with what you say. We should no more stop growing poisonous plants than stop filling our cars with gasoline or consuming alcoholoc drinks, either of which have the capacity to kill.
A long time ago I was teaching an excellent university credit course in "critical thinking", or what I nicknamed "street logic". My class in this case comprised all adults from assorted walks of life. Most of my students were intending to receive accredited degrees they'd missed out on ten or twenty years before.
The course was offered by the Philosophy Department. The course material had been beautifully put together. And the students gradually got the hang of the various samplings of practicable, everyday uses of logic.
Except for sources. What they did not "get" was the idea that there were good sources and bad sources of information. There was cheap sensationalism and "news" that was just for entertainment; there were a million kinds of propaganda and marketing lies; there were old wives' tales and hegemony. And there were all the attendant sources to misinform Joe Public accordingly.
But, once something was said, it was received as fact. If it were said often enough, and repeated repeated repeated, it would go right into the television-minds of the multitudes.
That was the limitation of the philosophy course. These adults could learn the logic, but I began to think it was "too late" for them to become discriminating in terms of their information sources.
I brought in a big pile of magazines and tabloids, covering the whole range from absurd fiction to the best science. It made for an enjoyable class, but I felt that the majority of my students never really picked up on the main point.
I wonder whether people want to.
Most people would prefer to tell you they had a friend whose girlfriend's father was actually eaten by a rattlesnake. Yes, the poor bloke and his wheelbarrow too. Eventually that rattler ate four children and was in the act of ingesting a Buick when the sheriff shot the "snake from hell" down.
—Since then, that county has extirpated rattlesnakes; and, just to be on the safe side, they have also outlawed sheriffs, children, Buicks, and wheelbarrows—all of which were involved in that terrible series of events.
I dunno, Tony and stone. People want entertainment. They can't handle the truth.
There are many species and cultivars of Brugmansia, some more common then others, some more toxic then others. There is also a long ethnobotanical history associated with a number of species/cultivars. For instance B. sanguinea has been used in S. America since pre-Columbian times and is still used as a hallucinogen by the shamans and Curanderos of Ecuador and Peru. The seeds of Brugmansia are used as an additive in chicha. The crushed leaves and flowers are prepared in hot or cold water and consumed as tea. Leaves are mixed with an infusion of tobacco. The entire plant contains tropane alkaloids. The flowers contain atropine and only traces of scopolamine (Schultes, et al. 1992). According to Schultes et al (1992), “among the Jivaro, recalcitrant children are given a drink of B. sanguinea with parched maize; when intoxicated, the children are lectured so that the spirits of the ancestors may admonish them.” And, “In the Choco, Brugmansia seeds put into magic chicha beer were thought to produce in children an excitement during which time they could discover gold. Indians in Peru still call Brugmansia sanguinea by the name Huaca or Huacachaca (“plant of the tomb”) form the belief that it reveals treasures anciently buried in graves” (Schultes et al, 1992).
In their native range, B. arborea, B. aurea, and B. sanguinea usually occur above an altitude of 6,000 feet, however I grow them in northern California at a much lower elevation.