Last year I received a white trumpet flower plant from a friend and I liked it right from the beginning. I mean you have large white blooms and nice foliage. It is what my little flower garden needed: some green with a Pop of white. What’s not to like, right? Then as I always do, I did some research on the internet, and I found out some interesting information about the Datura Inoxia (Devil’s Trumpet) plant that I now possess. This plant has a dark side.
The most obvious item is the ominous Devil’s Trumpet name. Many have heard of the Angel’s Trumpet flower, in which the blooms droop down. Well, my friends, the Devil’s Trumpet blooms upward as in a trumpet from not heaven but hell. Devil’s trumpet is grown in all but the coldest climates as a flowering ornamental. There are white, purple, and yellow varieties with large, single and double blossoms available. Devil’s trumpet grows naturally in disturbed areas such as eroded sites, old fields, vacant lots, overgrazed pastures and rangeland, roadsides and abandoned roadbeds, and fencerows. Apparently, disturbance and reduced competition are required for the plant to become established and grow. A wide variety of well-drained soils on both igneous and sedimentary parent materials are suitable.
The Datura Inoxia (Devil’s Trumpet) Dark Past, Present and Future: Use With Caution
From ancient times continuing to the present, the taking of Datura tissues, particularly the seeds, was used in shamanistic rituals as a path to enlightenment. Today, people frequently experiment with it for the hallucinogenic effect, but the results are so unpleasant (dark visions, disorientation, amnesia, blurred vision, dry mouth, and incontinence) that they seldom recommend the experience. Overdoses can result in death. The plant has been used to treat impotence, asthma, diarrhea, as an analgesic, to control fever, kill parasites, and as a drug for criminal purposes. Devil’s trumpet contains a host of phytoactive chemicals including atropine, hyoscyamine, hyoscine, scopolamine, norscopolamine, meteloidine, hydroxy-6- hyoscyamine, tiglic esters of dihydroxytropine, and a number of withanolides. It causes erratic behavior and even death of livestock that have eaten it, but it is seldom a problem for pastured animals because they carefully avoid consuming it.
Hummingbirds sometime visit the flowers, but are affected by the alkaloids in the nectar and must limit their consumption. Honeybees are apparently unaffected. The flowers have an intense night fragrance, which perhaps helps attract night-flying moths.
I like my Devil’s Trumpet flower, but with all that is going on with this plant, I couldn’t recommend it to everyone. Come to think of it, I guess it has Devil in its name for more reasons than one. You’ve been warned.
Source: John K. Francis, Research Forester,
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service,
International Institute of Tropical Forestry,
Jardín Botánico Sur, 1201 Calle Ceiba, San Juan PR 00926-1119,
in cooperation with the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras, PR 00936-4984