ANGEL’S TRUMPETS (Brugmansia suaveolens) & Datura

Armandii Corner2a, Datura

Datura’s spectacular trumpet flower, little woodland behind, 2001.

S E Brazil

This was a ‘patio plant’ from the old Woolworth’s at the Angel, labelled ‘Datura’.  It was a bare-rooted stick in a pot, but the photo of its trumpet flower made me believe it would be beautiful on the balcony of my previous flat.. Surely bees visiting the Nasturtiums would enjoy its trumpet flowers.

The Angel’s Trumpets grew to quite a size, with buds like small cigars & each leaf the size of a marrow. The elegant, PINK-tinged flowers were spectacular, but they brought no bees. At night the trumpets gave out a sweet, strong perfume, but I saw no moths.

Known as ‘Datura’ when I bought it, this plant has since been reclassified as ‘Brugmansia’ with six other species : all have large trumpets opening downwards. Nine smaller species with trumpets opening upwards are now ‘Datura’.

 

FDatura on balcony, pigeonfree zone and casserole dishFor five years the Datura lived on the balcony, with sparrows perching on its thick stems. Left to its own devices, it wanted to grow to about five feet in diameter.  Following instructions, it was cut down as winter approached &, on nights when frost was forecast, covered with bubble wrap.

Datura, Sumac with woodland behind, 2001

 

It came to Highbury in springtime 2001 in its very large container, & spent summer in the garden. As winter approached, it was covered with bubble wrap – but once someone (rodent/ squirrel) chewed into the plastic & allowed the cold air to reach the plant, it did not survive.

I’ve since seen two sizable Angel’s Trumpets grown in the ground in North London front gardens, with YELLOW trumpets visited by many bees… Perhaps they had mild winters in which to get their roots down when first planted out, & their placement in relation to neighbours’ shrubs, rising sun, etc. gives them a windbreak & a sheltered position.

 

Other names: Thorn apple, Tree Datura, Angel’s Trumpet, Floripondio, Maikoa

Toxicity

 Every part of the Angel’s Trumpet is toxic, with confusion, delirium & hallucinations the most common symptoms. In her gardening column for The Observer, Vita Sackville-West wrote of the Datura growing round the Equator:

“Nor had I ever been sufficiently grateful for not living in an island where the local burglar blows the pollen of datura in through your open window by means of a blowpipe and helps himself to your possessions while you lie temporarily insensible’.

THE ILLUSTRATED GARDEN BOOK, Vita Sackville-West
A New Anthology by Robin Lane Fox, Michael Joseph, London, 1986.

http://www.thepoisongarden.co.uk/atoz/datura_suaveolens.htm

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Puppies & small children can be at risk from this plant, but its unpleasant odour & noxious taste generally keep pets & other animals from eating it.   The Pet Safe Garden . Los Angeles Times   https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1990-12-23-re-9529-story.html

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For successfully growing and overwintering:  www.gardeningknowhow.com/ornamental/trees/brugmansia

TrumpetFlowers.com

2020 Lockdown appearance of DATURA STRAMONIUM (Jimson Weed)

A plant with large toothed leaves was found in the wild foxglove/nettle area by the back fence. Its WHITE  flowers resembled the Angel’s Trumpets that had succumbed to winter in 2001. Internet research suggested birdseed (feeders are nearby) or bird droppings had provided the seed. As there had been no visit to a garden centre in spring for new plants, this was perhaps an exotic gift from the universe…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The origins of Datura stramonium are unclear. It is to be found round the world, with highest numbers in Mexico and Central America.

‘Its seeds are very retentive of life, and being often in the earth put on shipboard for ballast, from one country to another, the plant is thus propagated in all regions, and it is now spread throughout the world, except in the colder or Arctic regions.

‘In Great Britain, it is only occasionally found and can scarcely be considered naturalized here, though it is sometimes met with in the south of England, generally in rich, waste ground, chiefly near gardens or dwellings. It is sometimes grown in private gardens in England as an ornamental plant. It was cultivated in London towards the close of the sixteenth century.’  

http://A Modern Herbal/Thornapple      Mrs M Grieve, 1931

https://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/t/thorna12.html

 

‘stramonium has become a cosmopolitan weed in the warm regions of North, Central and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and New Zealand. It is now found throughout almost all the USA except for the north-west and northern great plains.’
google

 

Wikipedia‘s detailed article about this UK weed includes photos of its thorny seed-bearing globes (thornapples) & anecdotes about its hallucinogenic effects. English soldiers used it in a salad in 1676 while in the colonies to quell ‘Bacon’s Rebellion’:

‘The James-Town Weed (which resembles the Thorny Apple of Peru, and I take to be the plant so call’d) is supposed to be one of the greatest coolers in the world. This being an early plant, was gather’d very young for a boil’d salad, by some of the soldiers sent thither to quell the rebellion of Bacon (1676); and some of them ate plentifully of it, the effect of which was a very pleasant comedy, for they turned natural fools upon it for several days: one would blow up a feather in the air; another would dart straws at it with much fury; and another, stark naked, was sitting up in a corner like a monkey, grinning and making mows [grimaces] at them; a fourth would fondly kiss and paw his companions, and sneer in their faces with a countenance more antic than any in a Dutch droll.

In this frantic condition they were confined, lest they should, in their folly, destroy themselves—though it was observed that all their actions were full of innocence and good nature. Indeed, they were not very cleanly; for they would have wallowed in their own excrements if they had not been prevented. A thousand such simple tricks they played, and after eleven days returned themselves again, not remembering anything that had passed.’

— Robert Beverley, Jr., The History and Present State of Virginia, Book II: Of the Natural Product and Conveniencies in Its Unimprov’d State, Before the English Went Thither, 1705[13]

Datura stramonium is poisonous to dogs & horses. You should wear gloves when working with it.

 

Traditional Medicine

‘The god lord Shiva was known to smoke Cannabis and Datura. People still provide the small thorn apple during festivals and special days as offerings in Shiva icons at temples. An extract made from the leaves is taken orally for the treatment of asthma and sinus infections, and stripped bark are applied externally to treat swellings, burns and ulcers.’

Pharmacological Properties of Datura Stramonium L. as a potential medicinal tree: An overview

‘In China a Taoist legend refers to the plant as the flower of one of the pole stars. The Chinese customarily mixed Datura with cannabis and wine, and legend had it that if the person gathering the plant had a pleasant disposition at the time, this would be reflected in the behavior of all who drank from it, but if the gatherer had been sad, so would be all who drank the wine. Datura was also used to treat colds and nervous conditions.’

American Botanical Council, HerbalGram: Jimson Weed: History, Perceptions, Traditional Uses, and Potential Therapeutic Benefits of the Genus Datura

‘According to Allen & Hatfield almost all of the records of thorn-apple being used in folk medicine come from East Anglia.  In Norfolk in about 1920 an ointment made by boiling its juice in pork fat was used to treat burns and scalds, a use which they noted had been recorded by John Gerard from Colchester, Essex, in 1597.  Also in Essex the soporific fumes given off by the plant’s juice with vinegar added were used as a painkiller.  As  in some other counties dried thorn-apple leaves, or seeds, were smoked to relieve asthma.

In the 1880s the Bombay Gazette carried advertisements for Datura  inhalations – ‘prepared in all the usual forms for smoking and also as pastilles and powder for burning on a plate or censer’ for the treatment of asthma and difficult breathing’.

Writing of Ireland, Peter Wyse Jackson  records that in 1772 thorn-apple was used to make ointments for burns, although several people in Naas, Co. Kildare, who had eaten the leaves, thinking them to be spinach, ‘fell into madness … for a few days, and then recovered’.

Plant Lore : Thorn-apple, http://www.plant-lore.com/plantofthemonth/thorn-apple/

Other names: Devil’s cucumber, Devil’s Snare, Devil’s trumpet, Devil’s weed, False castor oil plant,  Hell’s bells, Jamestown weed, Jonz-masal, Kanaka, Locoweed, Maraummam, Moon-flower, Pricklyburr, Sadah-dhatura, Stinkweed, Thornapple, Tolguacha, Umatai.