Originating in South America, with a range from Colombia to Chile, B. sanguinea can grow up to 16 ft, developing a very woody trunk. The red flowers do not emit scent at night as do other Brugmansia species. The flowers are green at the base, yellow in the middle, and red near the top. There are completely red varieties.
B. sanguinea has been used in S. America since pre-Columbian times and is still used as a hallucinogen by the shamans and Curanderos of Ecuador and Peru. The seeds of Brugmansia are used as an additive in chicha. The crushed leaves and flowers are prepared in hot or cold water and consumed as tea. Leaves are mixed with an infusion of tobacco. The entire plant contains tropane alkaloids. The flowers contain atropine and only traces of scopolamine (Schultes, et al. 1992).
According to Schultes et al (1992), “among the Jivaro, recalcitrant children are given a drink of B. sanguinea with parched maize; when intoxicated, the children are lectured so that the spirits of the ancestors may admonish them.” And, “In the Choco, Brugmansia seeds put into magic chicha beer were thought to produce in children an excitement during which time they could discover gold. Indians in Peru still call Brugmansia sanguinea by the name Huaca or Huacachaca (“plant of the tomb”) form the belief that it reveals treasures anciently buried in graves” (Schultes et al, 1992).
In their native range, B. arborea, B. aurea, and B. sanguinea usually occur above an altitude of 6,000 feet, however I grow them in northern California at a much lower elevation.
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