Sweet poison

DAY 101 (15 JULY) – Manacá (Brunfelsia uniflora) (Vejer, Spain)

Walking up a street of new houses this evening, this unusual purple and white plant caught my eye peeping through the railings. But more dramatic was its sweet scent. Known as a manacá or raintree, oil from its flowers is used in perfumes.

It is native to parts of South America and was traditionally used in the Amazon area by shamans and curanderos to produce a hallucinogenic drug. Part of the nightshade family, its poison is similar to strychnine. And a presumably related fact is that in the US state of Louisiana (there always has to be one, doesn’t there?) it is illegal to grow it other than for ornamental purposes.

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