Brugmansia suaveolens, commonly known as angel's trumpet, is a member of the Solanaceae family, which includes potato, tobacco, tomatoes and deadly nightshade. With its cousin Datura suaveolens, Brugmansia constitutes a dramatically beautiful but definitely toxic addition to the garden. An unpleasant taste repels the curious, but children in particular can be attracted by the sweet smell of its beautiful blooms. Since its self-protective alkaloid chemicals are known hallucinogens, Brugmansia attracts those less interested in outer beauty than a free or inexpensive exploration of their own inner landscape, no matter how dangerous.
All parts of the Brugmansia plant contain varying levels of the psychoactive chemical scopalamine. Scopalamine and similar tropane alkaloids interact with transmitters in the nervous system, affecting temperature, heart rate, motor control and mental processes. While scopalamine possesses anti-cholineric capacities that facilitate absorption and processing of other medications, it presents serious problems in recreational or accidental ingestion.
Symptoms of poisoning have been described by medical professionals as stomach cramps, heart-rate irregularity, hyperthermia, delusion, physical violence, coma and possible death. Those experiencing poisoning add burning sensations, extreme fear, disorientation, self-destructive impulses and ensuing depression to symptoms and report that symptoms can accompany even use of very small amounts of Brugmansia, usually smoked or brewed into tea.
California Poison Control reports that most treatment for accidental or intentional poisoning is symptomatic and supportive. Dehydration and hyperthermia are the most frequent complaints; providing fluids and cooling may be the only treatment needed in mild cases. Chemical countermeasures, gastrointestinal lavage and catheterization can be used for severe cases. Duration of symptoms is unpredictable, and some patients may require restraint in addition to monitoring.
Both curious pets and young children are susceptible to accidental poisoning from Brugmansia. Bitter taste throughout all plant parts probably reduces pet interest substantially. Pioneer literature, however, records how dangerous jimson weed, a Datura variety, was to grazing livestock. Sweet fragrance and flowers, however, increase attraction for young children, who should be prevented from handling or picking any part of the plant. Seek medical help immediately if you expect exposure to Brugmansia.
Rapid growth, showy blooms and adaptation to wider climate zones have increased appeal for gardeners. One group of Brugmansia fans, however, is sustained by a long history of the plant's involvement in South American native mysticism and its legal status as an easily purchased nursery plant. Brugmansia/Datura's well-known hallucinogenic properties appear to have had an impact on Australian plant sales, but there appear to be no active legal classification discussions in other countries.