Monday, September 28, 2020

The Angels have arrived

 

 

PLANT TALK

Mike Malloy
mikemalloy@naplesbutterfly.com

From late spring until early winter, we are blessed with a dazzling tropical plant known as Angel’s Trumpet or Brugmansia spp. A member of the Solanaceae family and originally native to tropical South America, Angel’s Trumpet has since become naturalized in North America. Its name refers to the giant pendulous flowers that this plant produces. Its large, lavish flowers are very fragrant, even more so at night in order to attract moths for pollinating. One variety in particular, the Super Nova, is so big it can be worn as a hat. Angel’s Trumpet are available in many different colors including white, pink, yellow, orange, red and a beautiful peach.

Brugmansia are easy to grow and cultivate, even as container plants. They prefer acidic soil, but will tolerate our alkaline soil. Angel’s Trumpet are not drought or salt-tolerant, and require lots of fertilizer. This plant will grow best in full sun to partial shade, and can be trained as a shrub or tree. Angel’s Trumpet

Datura Devils Trumpet

Datura Devils Trumpet

will grow as tall as 20 feet, although the majority grow to approximately 12 feet high and span 6 to 12 feet wide. Its substantial leaves grow 8 to 12 inches long and 6 to 10 inches wide. Angel’s Trumpet has relatively few pest problems. However, if snails, mealy bugs or whiteflies bother your plant, Bayer Advanced Tree & Shrub will take care of them.

The best time to take cuttings is during the summer when night temperatures are above 60 degrees. When taking cuttings, go for the upper branches, as they will bloom at any height. The lower branches need to be at least the same size as the mother plant they were taken from in order to bloom.

The relative to the Angel’s Trumpet is the Devil’s Trumpet (Datura). The primary difference between them is that Angel’s Trumpet flowers tilt downward, while Devil’s Trumpet flowers, which are usually doubled, tilt upward. Wait, shouldn’t that be the other way around?

Interestingly, there is a South American butterfly

Inca Sun Flower. PHOTOS BY MIKE MALLOY

Inca Sun Flower. PHOTOS BY MIKE MALLOY

called Placidula euryanassa that utilizes Angel’s Trumpet as one of its main host plants and as larval food (a plant that female butterflies lay their eggs on and caterpillars subsequently eat). This particular butterfly stores the plant’s tropane alkaloids while in the pupa stage and then passes them along to the adult butterfly. These alkaloids are a defense mechanism against predators, as they render the butterfly extremely distasteful to its enemies. Actually, a very similar process also occurs with butterflies here in the United States.

Remember, every part of the Angel’s Trumpet plant is poisonous, so be careful. However, I’ve personally never had a problem with them, nor have my two dogs, and I have been handling these plants for years. Angel’s Trumpet is categorized as a hallucinogenic and supposedly has terrifying side effects. That’s one trip you should definitely pass on. I prefer to sit back in my garden and admire this ethereal beauty from a distance. I always have company, too, because butterflies and hummingbirds are big fans.

KEEP BUTTERFLYING!!!

 

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