the Angel’s Trumpet

Angel’s Trumpet
Brugmansia (7 species)

Dear Angel’s Trumpet,

How many times did I see you growing before I recognized you as the powerful being that you are? 

I see you now. Reina de la Noche, you Queen of the Night. 

My late partner, Frank, first introduced me to you by name and helped me understand your gifts. We were traveling in Central America, and you were growing by someone’s front door when he said, “A curandero lives there.” I asked him how he knew and he said, “Because they have planted a Brugmansia close to their house. It’s like hanging up a sign that says you are a medicine man or woman.”

Somehow you found your way into a lot of the ornamental gardens of the deep south where I grew up, and I don’t think they were planting you there because they were curanderos. 

I wondered if you could survive our mountain winters and got a cutting of you from our friend Ken, a magical plant and mushroom man. Your versicolor species has not only survived our winters, but has thrived! It is true we cover you up in winter with ginkgo leaves and hay to protect your roots from the cold. And it is true it hasn’t been as cold as it used to be here. But last year, we had temps below zero and you still came back! It’s been 11 years and you are amazingly beautiful, year after year. Asleep under a mound of hay 7 months of the year, you suddenly awaken and send out thick, large stalks in June that quickly yield one Angel’s Trumpet flower after another, all summer long and on until the first freeze. Thank you so much!

In my garden, folks can be quite a distance away from you and say, “What is it I am smelling?” Just wait until dusk, I say, when your scent really wafts through the air, calling in all those night pollinators like the sphinx moths and bats. People are naturally attracted to your grand beauty, and your flower that when picked and held upright looks like a chalice, and they want to know more about you. Your leaves move about without an evident breeze, like hands making important gestures. I notice that in the heat of the day, when it has been dry, you seriously droop, and I think you would much prefer to be growing at the edge of a jungle forest. Thank you for growing here anyway, so far away from your original Andean home. We really admire you.

Can you remember what it was like to be growing in the wild, and have giant sloths spread around your seed? Now all of your dispersal revolves around human cultivation. And I have had the pleasure of spreading your love to dozens of people by taking cuttings from your branches and rooting them. I appreciate how easily you will give yourself away like that. It’s not every plant that does that, you know.

But I have to ask, what is it with your family and all of those potent alkaloids within them? Y’all even get the nickname ‘Nightshades.’ It took humans a long time to get up the courage to even eat a tomato baby. Your relatives Tomato, Potato, both Sweet and Hot Peppers and Eggplant can wreak havoc on some people’s joints and Datura, Henbane, Mandrake, Bittersweet, Horsenettle, and lord, not to mention Tobacco—well, don’t get me started on how they can affect our lives. Seems your clan came to earth handing out pleasure with a dark flip side. Maybe a good southern lady will just hang up a basket of your pretty cousin Petunia, to avoid the problems of ingesting most everything else you offer.

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