Monday, November 2, 2009


Central Park Zoo has a great collection of moderately hardy plants - the horticulturist there who oversees the grounds is always pushing the zonal limits for different species. I always love to see what he has growing there.

is one of these plants. Native to South America, this plant typically thrives in frost-free climates but has tolerated the Manhattan climate, for now.

Of course, it thrives in a warmer climate. For comparison to the above Central Park plant, here's shot of one growing in Barcelona:

Brugmansia is in the Solanaceae family, or the nightshade family. It is related to tomatoes, potatoes and some peppers. But, it's also related to some highly toxic plants and this species can be fatal if ingested in the wrong doses.

It's poison can have psychotropic effects, but it's toxicity makes ingesting the plant a very dangerous gamble. It has been used in shamanic practices by people from Peru and Amazonia.

Brugmansia is named for a botanist, Sebald Justin Brugmans.


Mike said...

I really enjoy your blog. I suppose Mums are a rather pedestian plant, but I often wondered - especially this time of the year - about the great variety of hues. Can you comment?

Jennifer G. Horn said...

thanks mike -- that was a fast turnaround for a comment!
I wrote a brief post about mums last year -- you can read it here:

Mary Delle said...

The brugmansia grows everywhere here in So California. Nice to read about it in more detail. Thanks.

how it grows said...

Wait, the brugmansia doesn't actually survive winters in NYC does it?

Jennifer G. Horn said...

This one struggles, but yes. Granted, the microclimate at the zoo is quite warm. The site is sunken and has almost no winter wind exposure. It's also near the sea lion exhibit and part of me wonders if the added humidity helps reduce the fluctuation in temperatures. They also have some bananas, photinias and a sego palm!

Sally said...

The center of diversity of the Solanaceae is near the equator and thus species were undisturbed by the ice ages and have had time to accumulate adaptive genetic variation for extreme ecological niches.