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What is Brugmansia?

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  • Written By: Niki Foster
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 02 December 2016
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Brugmansia is a genus of flowering trees or shrubs with seven species, all native to subtropical South America. The plants are collectively called Angel's Trumpets or Angel's Tears, along with plants of the genus Datura. Brugmansia plants grow to be 10 to 36 feet (3 to 11 meters) in height.

These plants feature large, hanging, trumpet-shaped flowers that may be single or double. The flowers have a light, pleasant scent, and may be red, yellow, orange, pink, or white. The leaves are covered in fine hair and may be variegated in some cultivars.

Brugmansia is cultivated as an ornamental plant for its beautiful flowers. The plants are easy to grow in a moist and fertile, but well-drained soil in frost free climates. They prefer full to partial sun. Outdoor plants require protection during cold winters, but the roots are hardy and typically re-sprout in the spring. Brugmansia flowers have a very long blooming season, lasting from late spring through the fall, and sometimes into early winter.

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The genus is often subdivided into two groups, or sections. Section Brugmansia, or the warm-growing group, includes B. aurea, B. insignis, B. sauveolens, and B. versicolor. Section Sphaerocarpium, also called the cold-growing group, includes B. arborea, B. sanguinea, and B. vulcanicola. There are also many hybrids and cultivars within the genus. Plants of the warm-growing group are less tolerant of cold weather, while plants of the cold-growing group, which grow at higher elevations in the wild, prefer moderate temperatures and may not bloom if it is very hot.

All parts of a Brugmansia plant are poisonous and can be potentially fatal to humans and animals if ingested. They contain the toxins atropine and scopolamine. It is very important to supervise children and pets around the plants.

Whether ingested or inhaled, the plant can cause hallucinations, dilated pupils, dry mouth, fever, increased pulse and blood pressure, weakened muscles, and paralysis. If the plant comes into contact with the eyes, both dilation and unequal pupil size can result. In some places, the cultivation, sale, and purchase of Brugmansia plants is illegal because of the potential danger it presents.

Brugmansia has been used in some shamanic traditions for ritual intoxication, especially among the indigenous groups of Peru and Ecuador, where many of the plants grow in the wild. Consuming the plant is always dangerous, however, since the amounts of toxin are unpredictable.

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