Brugsmansia syn. Datura
by Jerry Parsons, Ph.D.
Horticulture Specialist, Texas Agricultural Extension Service
in San Antonio
Desperate times and seemingly impossible situations
call for drastic solutions. Folks are "desperate"
for plants which will grow and hopefully bloom in the shade.
With the deer and other wildlife varmints on the increase
and ravenous when it comes to devouring our precious landscape
plants, we are ready to use anything and everything which
might grow and bloom in the shade yet escape the constant
browsing of our Bambi "friends".
Realizing such plants must be distasteful, we
must make plant selections from those that are labeled "poisonous".
The term "poisonous" means that if enough (usually
larger quantities than can be stomached or consumed because
of distasteful attributes) of the plant and/or plant parts
are eaten, an individual will become ill and possibly die.
Animals and children are usually repelled by
the nasty-tasting plant after the first bite if they are curious
enough or hungry enough to experience a taste. This aspect
of plant protection is used by many of our favorite plants
such as lantana and oleander.
Another plant which uses this defense mechanism
and is on the verge of becoming a Texas favorite has an angelic
name - Angel Trumpet. The Angel Trumpet is in the Brugmansia
genus. Angel Trumpet is a Datura-type plant but with the added
advantage of not producing the poisonous seed common with
other Datura. The Angel Trumpet is repulsive to deer (except
for the rubbing of velvet off antlers in the fall!), will
grow and bloom in semi-shaded areas and, the most precious
of all its attributes, emits a wonderful Angelic scent at
sundown and into the evening hours while you are enjoying
the cooling nighttime temperatures.
It is a dream-come-true-plant for Texas. It
gets its name from the large, long, trumpet-shaped flowers
which are abundant and emit a sweet, angelic-fragrance in
The large shrubs or small trees of Angel's Trumpet
(Brugmansia) are grown for their very large, fragrant, pendent
trumpet flowers. They are still often found under the name
Datura, but the true Datura are short lived, herbaceous plants
with smaller, more upright flowers and capsular fruits that
are usually prickly containing very poisonous seed. The Angel's
Trumpet will be root-hardy (freeze to the ground most years
but sprout again from the roots in the spring.) in most areas
of Texas except in extreme north Texas.
Five or more species are currently attributed
to Brugmansia, most originating in the Andes of northern South
America, though even there they seem always to be associated
with human habitation. They are evergreen or semi? evergreen
and their leaves are large and soft, rather like tobacco leaves
but smaller, and all parts of the plant are narcotic and poisonous.
Remember, it is the dose that makes the poison! Some plants
considered "poisonous" are narcotic or hallucinogenic
if used in the correct "dosage", i.e., Mountain
Laurel berries are deadly if chewed but were used to make
a mescal-like drink by Indians who knew the safe "recipe-for-happiness".
Angel Trumpet prefers a warm to hot climate
and a light,
fertile, well-drained soil. They are best grown as small trees.
When young, they can be shaped into a single trunk or they
can be kept trimmed as dense, rounded shrubs. Keep well-watered
during the growing season. Whitefly and red spider mite populations
should be controlled.
'Charles Grimaldi' Angel Trumpet is named
after a Californian landscape designer, this 6 ft (1.8 m)
tall hybrid cultivar ('Dr. Seuss' X 'Frosty Pink') has very
large, pendulous, fragrant, pinkish yellow to salmon pink
flowers, mainly from mid-fall (autumn) to spring. It has very
large leaves and with age will form quite a thicket of stems.
'Frosty Pink' Angel Trumpet is a hybrid which has large,
pale apricot?pink and white flowers and grows to around 6
ft (1.8 m) tall. It has large, pale green leaves and forms
clumps of stems. The hybrid Brugmansia 'Ecuador Pink' is very
similar, but has flowers of pastel pink
BUSH MORNING GLORY, OR MOONFLOWER
Ipomoea fistulosa Mart. ex Choisy
This interesting plant with a shrub like-growth habit is in
the sweet potato family (Ipomoea). The scientific name is
Ipomoea fistulosa. It grows in exceedingly dry places and
can be considered a xeriscape plant. The bush morning glory
is the most prolific bloomers of any of the summer perennials.
The plant is covered with medium?size, light
pink blooms all summer. (There is also a white form.) Blooms
last only one day but clusters of blooms are formed in the
axil of every leaf. Plants can get 6 to 8 feet tall with multiple
trunks. When hard frosts kill plants, the tops should be removed.
In south central Texas, plants will sprout again from the
hardy root system the following May. Once established, the
bush morning glory is a tough, drought?tolerant and heat?tolerant
plant. It blooms best in direct sun and will not bloom as
well if receiving less than 8 to 10 hours of direct sun. Plants
can be cut back monthly to encourage branching and increase
blooming surface. Cutting back in July will reduce plant height
and encourage a spectacular fall bloom.
In India, writings indicate: "It is not
eaten by livestock (ducks, goats, cattle, buffalo, elephants,
etc.), is easily propagated by stem cuttings and withstands
periods of flooding and desiccation. It makes an ideal living
fence and is easier to manage than the common alternatives:
upright cacti succulent Euphorbias or thorny species of Acacia
and Prosopis. Under dry conditions it does not seem capable
of tolerating much competition but in water or mud it is highly
competitive. Under wet conditions the stems become inflated
and may be as thick as a human arm. These inflated stems are
hard and not spongy as one might expect. Also, they are capable
of rooting. In regions that are regularly flooded, Ipomoea
fistulosa is often dominant and forms stands of several hectares.
" In other words, this plant is tough and beautiful both
in water and in drought and, in most instances, the deer won't