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Brugmansia suaveolens, angel's trumpet
formerly called Datura suaveolens
In northern climates this attractive plant is often grown indoors because people assume its common name refers to the look of the flowers rather than the indication that this is the sound to be heard after ingestion of a fatal amount.
Read more about Brugmansia suaveolens, angel's trumpet, in these blog entries;
The 2010 US Poison Control Centers annual report shows only two deaths due to plants
Meaning of the Name
The name, now applied to this plant previously called Datura, is from Sebald Justin Brugmans, 1763-1819, a Dutch professor of natural history.
See Datura stramonium for the possible meaning of 'Datura'.
From the Latin ‘suave’ meaning ‘sweet’ and, hence, ‘sweet-smelling’. Plants from the genera Datura and Brugmansia are, usually, described as having an unpleasant smell. This species may get its name by being an exception.
Common Names and Synonyms
angel's trumpet, sacred datura, hindu datura, indian apple, thorn apple.
How Poisonous, How Harmful?
Because of the change of genus name, much of the information about this plant is credited to the Datura genus.
Brugmansia/Datura plants usually have an unpleasant taste so accidental poisoning from direct ingestion of plant material is unusual. Most poisoning results from the consumption of a tea made from the seeds either for its alleged medicinal benefits or for its hallucinogenic effects.
Datura suaveolens, angel's trumpet
A number of symptoms have been reported and not all are present in every case. Twenty-nine sources have been examined, both scientific papers reporting on specific cases and 'herbals' going back to Dioscorides.
The overwhelming majority say confusion, delirium and hallucinations are the principal effects with drowsiness, sleep or coma generally following. Dilation of the pupils is such a common effect it gets mentioned in passing in some reports.
Agitation and convulsions requiring the use of restraints or sedatives are reported in around a third of the sources, a similar proportion give death as the outcome of Datura poisoning.
Only a few sources mention the muscle weakness which was supposed to make Datura a useful murder weapon by rendering the victim helpless and memory loss, supposed to help whores get away with robbing their clients, is also a given in a minority of the sources.
Its hallucinogenic properties have led to young people experimenting with it. During the 1990s, there were two cases of drowning where, it is believed, young people experimenting with the plant on beaches fell asleep below the high water mark and drowned when the tide came in.
The 2010 American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) annual report shows one death due to misuse of angel's trumpet.
Folklore and Facts
The following stories are associated with various species of Datura/Brugmansia.
Datura suaveolens, angel's trumpet
It was believed to have been favoured by professional killers because the victims rapidly lose the wish, or ability, to move and quietly go off to sleep. Note that this runs contrary to most of the actual case reports which talk of agitation and excitement.
On the Indian subcontinent and Russia it was known as "knockout drops", which thieves and prostitutes used to knock out their victims. So well known was this effect that Christoval Acosta, who was in India in 1578, wrote that Hindu whores gave it to their patrons because ‘these mundane ladies are such mistresses and adepts in the use of the seed that they gave it in doses corresponding to as many hours as they wish their poor victims to be unconscious or transported’.
It may be that the hallucinations induced led the poor fools who woke up penniless to believe they had spent their money on exciting 'extras'.