Photo from Google Images labeled for reuse
Have you seen these beautiful flowers in your neighborhood or do you have a plant like this in your yard? If you do you may not know that this plant is poisonous, every part of them, the leaves, flowers, stems, roots, everything. They are part of the nightshade family and come originally from South America.
I want to share a very real life story with you so that you will know how dangerous and very toxic the Angel Trumpet plant is. The fact that we stumbled on to the reason my friend got so sick is an unusual and bizarre set of circumstances. Had I not taken flowers to someone else in the shop where she works the subject would never have come up and she would not have been able to figure out what made her so sick.
I am an avid gardener. I have been in the process of moving and separating my perennials for a while. The girl who does my nails has been trying to establish a perennial garden and I have been sharing plants with her for the past few month when I go in for my appointments. The friend who cuts my hair works in the same shop so last week when I went in to see her for a haircut I brought a sack full of flowers for my nail friend.
My hair cutter friend isn’t into flowers and made the statement that she had not planted her deck boxes this year because they were going to be out-of-town several weeks over the summer would not be there to water them. However, she had planted a perennial in a big pot last summer hoping it would come back. Something did come up, but it wasn’t what she planted the year before. She had taken a picture of the plant in bloom on her phone and let me see it, asking if I knew what it was. She said she had shown the photo to several of her clients who gardened, but no one knew what it was. One lady had shown it to her yard man and he said it was a petunia.
I took one look and said, do you know this plant is poisonous? It definitely is not a petunia. When I said that the plant was poisonous, she got this strange look on her face and said, I was weeding in my yard over the weekend and I picked a wilted flower off the plant. I came into the house but didn’t wash my hands. A while later I touched my eye and it got very inflamed very quickly. After using eye drops and washing it out, it didn’t improve. Then my husband noticed that the pupil of that eye was twice as big as the other. She described having a raging headache, could eat only a small amount at dinner that evening, then threw up. Her husband was so concerned he wanted to take her to the emergency room. The next day her pupil was back to normal, but she still was not feeling well and went to see both her GP doctor and her eye doctor. Neither could give an explanation for what had happened to her, but her GP suggested doing a CT scan.
(She has copied the website we found describing the poisoning symptoms (I share the site with you below) and she plans to take it to both her GP doctor and eye doctor regarding the cause of her distress.)
I knew when I saw the picture of the bloom that the plant was poisonous and the name was Angel something. We looked it up on my phone and found that it is called Angel Trumpet, some sites refer to it as the Angle Trumpet of Death. The description of symptoms from touching any part of the Angel Trumpet and coming into contact with a mucous membrane were identical to what happened to her when she touched her eye.
She then remembered that her mother had given her a spiny seed last fall and she had stuck it in the dirt in the big pot. Here is what the Angel Trumpet seed looks like:
The link to the website we found that described the Angle Trumpet plants poisonous attributes: Are Angle Trumpets Poisonous? We further discovered on other sites that there are problems in some parts of the country with young people chewing the leaves and flowers or making a tea drink for a hallucinogenic high. Angle Trumpet (deadly flower) Unfortunately many times these young people ingest way more of the poison than my friend did by simply picking off a wilted flower and they don’t recover or have lingering effects.
The descriptions in all of the sites we visited said the Angel Trumpet is poisonous to both plants and animals. I knew that my friend had several cats and asked if she had noticed any of her animals acting funny or being sick. Her outside cat had not been himself for several weeks. We think that the cat may have been jumping into the big pot where the Angel Trumpet is and dug or rubbed against its leaves or flowers then licking his paws and coat. As I said all parts of the plant are poisonous including the roots.
I had an Angel Trumpet plant that a neighbor gave me some years ago. It lived and bloomed in my backyard for several years and ultimately died. I later learned that these plants are poisonous so I never asked my neighbor for a replacement. After the incident of my friend being poisoned, I called my neighbor to see if she still had Angel Trumpet plants. I knew she had given many other neighbors on the street a start of the plant and I was certain that she didn’t know they were poisonous. She said she did not know that the plants were poisonous, but she had been told of the hallucinogenic properties that kids were using them for, so she got rid of all her plants. She also confirmed another feature of the plant, it is very difficult to remove from the landscape. She said that when she trimmed the plant and stacked the trimmings in the brush pile that they would root if touching the ground or send out root shoots in the air and come back from roots she thought she had dug out. That was why she had so many plants to share with the neighbors. But, she said that when the Angel Trumpet bloomed it had an absolutely wonderful smell.
Hopefully, my diatribe on Angel Trumpets will find a way to let people know:
1) How to recognize the plant. The blooms are large and hang downward and can be white, yellow, and/or pink
2) That every part of the plant is poisonous
3) If you have this plant remove it and destroy the roots or it will come back
4) If you keep the plant in the landscape you should place it away from traffic areas where children and pets can come in contact with it and it was suggested to place a hedge or fence in front of it so people couldn’t get to it