Brugmansia versicolor (Solanaceae)
Peach Angel’s Trumpet (Nightshade Family)
Origin: South America, lower elevations
The Brugmansia species are some of the most beautiful flowering plants for mild climate gardens . It is suspected that what we now call species within the genus are all actually cultivars of one original species, taken out of the forests to be cultivated in shaman gardens thousands of years ago. Most angel trumpets are grown at higher elevations in the Andes, and do poorly in the oppressive heat and humidity of Florida’s summers. However, Brugmansia versicolor is from lower elevations and flourishes in our climate.
The plant is grown for its flowers, almost a foot-long, fused pendent trumpets that emerge a greenish-cream color and turn peach over the next few days (hence the species name versicolor). It blooms on a lunar cycle, and during the rainy season can bloom almost incessantly. The flowers are incredibly fragrant, especially during the evening, when its pollinator, a sphinx moth, is active. The flowers, as well as the rest of the plant, contain toxic belladonna alkaloids, which have been used for centuries by South American shamans to induce delirium and hallucinations.
These toxins have given the plant an incredibly bad reputation, even causing a letter to be written to the local paper asking why angel’s trumpets have not been banned. The fact is that most plants in the family Solanaceae including tomato plants, contain these toxic alkaloids in their leaves and stems. The Angel’s Trumpet at Selby Gardens is quite old, hovering right around the life expectancy of thirty, and is in glorious bloom right now next to the Koi Pond.
Text by David Troxell