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Growing Brugmansia and Datura, the deadly beauties

You will see the beautiful Angels Trumpets advertised in many garden catalogs or you may see a
plant called Devils Trumpets or Moon Flower being grown in gardens or even along roadsides. The
plants have pretty trumpet or funnel shaped flowers that are often fragrant. These plants are either
Brugmansia or Datura, two pretty but very poisonous plants often grown for their ornamental
qualities. Of the two, Brugmansia makes the better ornamental plant and is not likely to become a
dangerous toxic weed like the Daturas. But how do you tell the difference?
Brugmansia and Datura are plants belong to the Solanaceae ( nightshade) family, the same family
that tomatoes and potatoes come from. For a long time the two genera Brugmansia and Datura were
lumped together. Modern botanists have separated them into the two genera, with Brugmansia
generally regarded as having 9 species and Datura 7 species although those alternate and change as
arguments over genetics get resolved.
Brugmansia and Datura both originate in South and Central America, although they can come from
many different climates in those countries. Some Datura may have originated in Tunisia, this is
being studied. Daturas however, have long been naturalized in many warm climate countries. There
are literally hundreds of named varieties of Brugmansia with many hybrids between the species.
Daturas have far fewer named varieties. The two genera do not hybridize naturally although
breeders are attempting to do so with modern genetic manipulations.
Brugmansia species go by the common names of Angels Trumpet or Devils Trumpet. Datura, owing
to its ability to naturalize easily in many areas of the world has many common names, Thornapple,
Jimson Weed, Locoweed, Devils Trumpet, Angels Trumpet, and Moon Flower are just a few. (Do not
confuse them with the morning glory like vine also called Moon Flowers). Datura seed may also be
offered under the name Toloache. In catalogs Brugmansia and Datura are often confused.
Brugmansia species are semi-woody perennials, forming bush or small tree shapes. In the wild some
species are 30 or more feet high. Datura species are either herbaceous annuals or short lived tender
perennials. Both have similar long oval leaves, sometimes toothed, that can get quite large. Datura
leaves are often fuzzy or hairy. The stems of Datura often have a touch of reddish purple.
Brugmansia foliage tends to be a darker green than Datura foliage and there are Brugmansias with
variegated foliage.
The flowers of Brugmansia typically dangle downward although some face out horizontally. Datura
flowers typically face upwards. Brugmansia flowers come in a wide range of colors from white to
peach, rose, pink, lavender orange and recently red. There are many double flowered Brugmansia
varieties. Datura flowers are usually white, sometimes lavender or pale pink and usually single
flowered, but double flowered varieties exist. Both Datura and Brugmansia have scented species, the
smell is strongest at night. Datura flowers open in the late afternoon and evening hours and close
during the day.