CITYSCAPE It is dangerous and pretty. The Angel’s Trumpet is best kept away from children
While walking through the lush campus of one of the bigger hospitals in the city recently, a small, tropical tree with large, trumpet-shaped flowers that droop gracefully from the branches, caught our collective eye. The foot-long, delicate pink blossoms seemed to pour out from narrow calyces to terminate in wide, flared trumpet endings. When we returned towards nightfall, a wonderful fragrance filled the air, coming from the numerous blooms that were opening.
“That’s the Brugmansia suaveolens or the Pink Delight commonly known as Angels’ trumpet,” said N. Arun Kumar a student who lives in Hennur, “My grandfather would never go near the flower let alone smell it.” The name obviously refers to the large, pendulous, trumpet-shaped flowers, which are six to ten inches in size.
“They look fantastic in containers or at one end of the lawn and the dramatic display persists for several months. All parts are highly toxic if ingested, in fact just smelling the flowers make you dizzy,” says Amore Dodsworth who lives in Whitefield.
The Angels’ Trumpet and the Oleander were two plants that we were told not to touch as children. We had been warned not to let the milky sap fall on your bare skin, or even avoid any temptation to put it into your mouth, as it was toxic. Today, it’s rather surprising that it is grown in gardens across the city, including schools. “They are cultivated today for their showy flowers with no idea of the safety factor,” rues Arun Singh, an avid flower enthusiast.
Bridget White Kumar, a noted chef and cookbook writer in the city reminisces, “We had a lot of these trumpet flower bushes in our garden in KGF and our old gardener told us that they were very poisonous when we were kids. He would warn us all the time not to touch the flowers. Touching the flowers and then putting our fingers in our mouths without washing was what he wanted us to avoid.”
Ovee Thorat, who is a student in ATREE says, “I have heard that Datura is toxic, even my parents used to tell me this when I was a child, asking me to be careful. This plant is just one from the family which has some chemicals (alkaloids) that are toxic and can give rise to hallucinations and amnesia. In some cultures it has been used for many years as a poison.
“There is another ornamental plant, Brugmansia, which also has toxic properties. Both Datura and Brugmansia are known as Angel’s Trumpet. It is known to result in paralysis, hallucinations and even death.”
The plant is easy to grow and attracts moths and humming birds, but we have to realise the danger of growing them in gardens, where young children might inadvertently ingest them.