Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Datura ain't Datura anymore

I went looking for the name of this plant which Celeste and Steve have growing in their garden.
It is a short-lived woody plant,
with these long, pendulous trumpet flowers
We all knew it under the name of Datura or "Angel's Trumpet". Trouble is, the taxonomists have been at work again, and this plant is now named as a member of the Brugsmansia genus. According to the botanists, the true "Daturas" are soft plants, mostly annuals, which hold their trumpet flowers erect, not pendulous - but similar in other respects.

They are in the huge family of Solanaceae - famous for fruit plants such as the Tomato, Chili and Eggplant, as well as the Potato. But it does not stop there, you can add things like the "Deadly Nightshade", and remember that even the humble Spud has poisonous features (which your Mum probably warned you about). And even Australia's Kangaroo Apples have a bad reputation. I should also mention the commercially important, but highly addictive and ultimately poisonous products of the plant Nicotiana tabacum - which is of course, the Tobacco Plant. These plants are all related.
So, it should come as no surprise that we are familiar with all sorts of stories about the dangers on growing "Datura" plants. This comes especially with warnings about not growing them close to bedroom windows. The flowers are night scented, but their famous heavy scent (which is why old-fashioned gardeners grew them in the first place) is reported (pers com) as causing headaches to persons sleeping in the bedrooms outside which the "datura" plant was flowering. Hardly surprising, as Brugsmansia is classed as being toxic in all its parts.

Celeste is well aware of the potential danger of this plant, and it is growing out in a breezy part of the garden, well away from the house.

When examined closely, you see that it is not just a "single" flower
but a double.
From what I can find, this cultivated plant is possibly Brugsmansia aurea.

Incidentally, I cannot resist using the word "vespertine" to describe the flowers which open in the evening. Reminds me of "Evensong" (for my High Church friends, or "Vespers" for my formerly loyal Catholic mates).

Vespertine - What a lovely word!

This word is more appropriate for this flower, than the other word "crepuscular", which is more familiar when used to refer to the browsing habits of Wombats and Kangaroos and Wallabies, which tend to feed late in the afternoon and evening, and again in the early morning.


Mosura said...

Just be careful smelling that stuff. I remember two kids being hospitalised about 15 years ago. Don't know precisely what species it was. Great looking flowers! I'd would imagine they would be attractive to some moths. (as perfumed white flowers often are)

Snail said...

They are splendid flowers --- very dramatic. Someone down the road (in the cleared area) has some delightful plants. Not sure of their weed potential in a place like this. Solanaceae are very good at escaping!

mick said...

"Vespertine" - lovely word! Must remember to use it (appropriately) next time :-)

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Mosura
No doubt you are right about the Mothiness. Night-time flowers, large, pale coloured, have got to "work with" moths to get pollinated.
Re the kids sniffing the flowers, they proably over did it deliberately, expecting psychtropic effects.
Silly kids.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Snail
Good point about the potential for "garden escapes".
They are popular plant amongst garden enthusiasts, with lots of hybrids. Hardly surprsing, with such beatiful flowers, plus their famed scent. Incidentally, I saw this plant in the morning, and no scent was noticeable at all - thus confirming its "vespertine" nature.
In this case, it is generally regarded as too cold for these plants in Robbo.
This particular hillside is a possibility, and I will alert the owners.
But as for the "Wild Tobacco" it is certainly a problem along the NSW coast. Parrots and Pigeons love them.
Not sure about these ones, though, as the seed pod is hard and spiky.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Mick
Yes, lovely word, and Celeste and her artistic colleagues are fast adding it to their repertoire.