Angels trumpets. Hell’s bells. Buttery petals splayed out into ivory wings, nodding in the breeze. Countless flowers dangle triumphantly, steadfastly poised. Ready and waiting.
Virginia 1676, this tree found its name in Jamestown weed, for the mass accidental poisoning of soldiers there. After the leaves were boiled and served to all the unsuspecting soldiers, ‘a very pleasant comedy’ erupted, looked on by Robert Beverly, the head officer. One soldier was found ‘blowing up a feather in the air,’ while another would ‘fondly kiss and paw his companions.’ All would have ‘wallowed in their own excrements, if they had not been prevented.’ After 11 days of these antics, the soldiers returned to themselves not remembering a thing. Folk-lore deems an essential ingredient in Witches Brew, to potion a love so deep it could kill. Now commonly referred to as Datura, a tree often found in Australian backyards.
I first heard of Datura in relation to a friend of a friend. Unknowingly, or perhaps in defiance one afternoon he smoked the leaves. Unlike those soldiers he never did return to himself, his brain remaining permanently damaged. Not the casual high some seek after a toke of a joint or a bite of a mushroom. The last time I saw him he was bolting out of Woolworths, handfuls of groceries flailing behind him.
A few months before he had checked himself into a psyche-ward, but he ran away from that too. Who knows why he fell irrevocably into the hell’s bell’s, while the ‘comedic spectacle’ performed by the soldiers was short-lived. It doesn’t help that our only bible to the effect of Datura lies in the sticky webs of google.
Xylem and Phoem are the arteries and veins of a tree. These guys are constantly pumping sugar and water around particular molecules found in Datura known as Tropane Alkaloids, that which mucks with the receptors in our brain.
The result of Datura is a heightened feeling of Delirium, not to be confused with Hallucination. Inside the brain’s molecular structure and in-between the chemical neurotransmitters that trigger emotions and repress feelings, the state of Delerium vs Hallucination are antithetical. Even on a wig-out scale what a person experiences comparatively are completely opposite. Yet Datura is commonly referred to under the Hallucinogenic Umbrella-schema of things. Effect-seeking people often miss the cause.
…..‘never heard of it but from what i just read on google every part of this plant is toxic so I would say just drink a little bit maybe half of a glass and wait…if you don’t get sick after 30 min drink the rest’.
A Yahoo answer to “How much angel trumpet tea should I drink.’ Much like Nanna’s afternoon brew, only cadenced in modern verse.
I often think about that friend of a friend. Life’s mixed up cruelties are often shrouded in charm. Maybe he receded into a part of his brain where there is less confusion. Now and then we are all fooled by the dreamy precursor, yet glitter can be blinding, deliberately so.
All photographs by Greta Stonehouse.