Saturday, February 7, 2009

Reina de la Noche (The Queen of the night) – A seducing miss Jekyll and Miss Hyde of the plants world

Be cautious of the Lady of the Night. She will seduce you with her looks, intoxicate you with her smell, trap you like a bee with her honey and when you become severely addicted, she will suck the life out of you and leave you in the gutter with an sardonic smile.

This could be an ancient, biblical warning to young men that they should be cautious with, which girls they select as company or a dramatized instruction to American tourists to be cautious in other Countries, if they want to visit one of the more discrete places in the amusement industry. If this is, what you assume, you could probably not be more wrong.

Brugmansia or Angel's Trumpets has the same effect on people that grow them, as the Lady of the Night is said to have on lonely men. These trees of South America fascinate us with the looks of their flowers, intoxicate us with their smell, and the symptoms that we are trapped for real is, when we seem to want more and more of this plant and end up buying or trading for a dusin or more. Some growers even have collections consisting of 40 plants or more.

Many growers directly talk about their strange attachment to Brugmansia as Brugmansia Addiction (BA) or Brugmansia Buying Addiction (BBA). I was one of those guys a few years ago that suffered severely from both syndromes (both BA and BBA), but now I am in Brugmansia Rehab.

What exactly is a Brugmansia addiction? This is the question that I will try to answer for you in tonights Blog about Brugmansia. Have you ever thought about that there could be more to it than meets the eye … that something entirely wrong is going on under the threshold of our consciousness that very well might explain, why growing Angel's Trumpets become such a passion for some people, even to a degree, where they become paranoid of other growers and directly unpleasant? Let us look at why?

Brugmansia addiction (BA) don't start the minute that you lay your eyes on a photo of Brugmansia flowers. No one become passionated about Brugmansia merely from looking at photos. A photo of a Brugmansia tree in full bloom will only trigger common admiration and the same wish for growing this plant as it were a rose or a passionflower. Typical replies will be close to indifference to slightly interested:

“Do you know, where I can buy one like these” or “If you some day should have a cutting in spare for me, I won't decline it, if you insist”.

The responses from a person, who is growing Brugmansia for the first time is, that they are looking forward for it to bloom, but the turning point, where the first dramatic changes in personality takes place, are ALWAYS, after the opening of the first flower. The responses are no longer close to neutral, but demonstrates an almost altered state of consciousness characterized by euforism:

“This is my first time to grow Brugmansia and I am totally lost in love! The flowers are stunning and the scent is so wonderful and amazing. Now I want one in every color. I want them all”

“My obsession with Brugmansia started two years ago. It started with one plant. As soon as I saw the first flower I was hooked. Now I have got 70 plants and spent not so few money on soil, fertilizers and all of my time taking care of my babies. I am nursing them as an obsessed in the hope that I will get lots and lots of flowers.”

An addiction symptom that you should really be worried about is, when you start loosing interest in other things and begin to see events of your daily life as an unwelcome interference in your life with Brugmansia. It is not unusual in this phase to start to neglect other doings and sometime family quality time to spend your time with your plants or spend time on the Internet in the hunt of like minded souls or maybe the next fix in the form of a new batch of cuttings to install in your already too large Brugmansia collection. As one grower told me, he was often spending several hours every night frequenting the Internet's many Brugmansia forums get deeper into his Brugmansia addiction.

Why is it that this seems to happen for any person that starts to grow Brugmansia? What kind of addiction are we talking about that makes millions of Brugmansia collectors worldwide go through a lot of trouble and spend enormous amounts of money on these plants?

One of the things that I noted, before I went to Brugmansia rehab was that people that have the Brugmansia addiction often uses the same phrasings as you would expect to find on Erowid and other websites, where drug abusers meet up and discuss their drug habits. Many Brugmansia growers actually uses expressions such as being “addicted”,”hooked” and “totally lost”, when they describe their emotions towards Brugmansia. The plant it self become an object for affection that resembles religious affection and they start using the same language as alcoholics would use about a bottle of scotch and call their plants their “babies”, “eye candy”. They also automatically start to view themselves as good parents to the plants, which now become “good for the soul”.

When I did research on the ebook about Angel's Trumpets I worked with photographers from all over the world. Many of the photographers live in Colombia, Ecuador and Chile and I could not help, but to ask them about the reputations, stories and legends about Brugmansia in their part of these Countries, and what they trusted me with now become a great help in understanding, why people become addicted to growing Brugmansia and why changes in personalities show up and follow a fixed pattern.

In Bogotá in Colombia, if a person can not sleep, there is an old saying that they should just sit an hour under a flowering Borrachero (Brugmansia) tree then they will be able to sleep again. Another story goes that it is dangerous to fall asleep under a Borrachero (Brugmansia) tree, because the smell of the flowers will make you sleep forever. No Colombian in his right mind would ever dare to sit on a bench under a blooming tree and even the fact that a tourist stops under one of these causes the local people to stop up and stare, because never have they seen such stupidity.

The Colombians might be right that the smell of the Angel's Trumpets is narcotic and that it can even be deadly if you stay close for long time enough. Some years ago there was a case in Florida, where a little boy fell asleep under a blooming Brugmansia tree in his parents garden. It turned out that the smell of the flowers had made him drift over in a state of unconsciousness. He was brought to the nearest emergency room and treated for two days, before he finaly recovered.

The fact that the smell of Brugmansia flowers is narcotic can seem unbelievable. The stories from my friends in Colombia can easily be ascribed as myths were it not for the story of Florida, which is agreement with the South American testimonies. Yet another grower experience from a grower in Washington. She said that the smell of her Brugmansia tree, when in full flower actually had a mildly narcotic effect on her. When her Brugmansia trees was taken indoors for the winter, still in full bloom, she would get a little high from the fragrance.

Actually it has been known in the larger cities emergency room nurses that just to be standing nearby a blooming Brugmansia tree can have a poisonous effect on some people. The symptoms aroused by exposure to the smell alone can cause nausea, dizziness, weakness and confusion.

What can we actually learn from these accounts? From the Colombian saying that it can be fatal to sleep under a blooming Brugmansia tree, to the story of Florida, where a kid actually was sleeping under a blooming tree and needed emergency treatment against Brugmansia poisoning to the nurses knowledge that many people react with mild symptoms of scopolamine poisoning just to have been near a blooming tree, we can learn one thing. People react differently towards the smell of Brugmansia flowers. The time of exposure plays a role for the degree of poisoning, but also the tolerance to scopolamine is different from person to person.

When so many Brugmansia growers becomes so passionate about Brugmansia that they see it as a must to build large collections of the plants and spend so much time and money on them, could that have something to do with the properties of the smell? No, you would probably say. The smell is quite harmless and the only reason to grow Brugmansia is that the flowers looks beautiful and the smell is overly pleasant.

But could it not be that under the surface of this passion truth is a bit different? Let us look at our instincts, for instance, when we gets hungry. A very few of us actually feel the symptoms of being hungry. The alarm clocks of the body that tell us it is time to eat has been shut of, but instead we begin to imagine for instance a big, fat beef or maybe a fried chicken. The more hungry we become the more we tends to glorify our images of that steak and at a point the bare thought make us drool and urges us to find something, maybe the steak in our thoughts, to eat.

Is that also, what in reality happens, when a person gets hooked on growing Brugmansia? Can it be the narcotic effect of the first open flower that creates a hunger for more drugs? Is the slowly developing tolerance to scopolamine that unconsciously, because of the lessened effect drives the grower to dream of acquiring more and more Brugmansia plants, because this means a larger dose of smell and thereby more narcotic? Does the narcotic effect on the grower explain, why so many of them become so passionated about Brugmansia that they start neglecting other important things in life?

What about the seemingly states of happiness that often occur in a new growers life, after experiencing the first Brugmansia flower and its smell? This pattern quickly develops into a craving for more and more plants, not springing out of happiness, but of necessity and compulsive expectation of future joy. This macabre play is often ending with a grower that has acquired a larger collection of plants in the hope that it will alter his or her life and lift the person high above trivial life, but that doesn't rarely happen in these last stages of a Brugmansia addiction. Rather the person become more and more miserable and can not any longer hope to find redemption in enlargen his Brugmansia collection. At this stage the person still collects any Brugmansia plant they can lay their hand on, but the collecting has now become purely compulsive and the person possessed and obsessed with the paranoia and scarcely concealed aggressions towards fellow growers that still is in the stages of their addictions, where there is still an expectation of comfort and hope in the thought of owning more plants. The current of Brugmansia addiction finaly come to an end, when the addicted person become so unfriendly with his fellow growers, where after he is loosing interest in his surroundings and enter into a long or everlasting psychosis.