At first sight, they are enchanting. My first encounter with one of these trees was at an evening party hosted at a private finca. The reception was large and boisterous, making it easy to steal away and explore the grounds. In a side garden lit with twinkling lights strung up on stone walls, grew a tree with long, white, bell-shaped flowers. The bells drooped downward, finishing in graceful points, each bloom as big as my hand. These flowers are incredible.
Native to Colombia and growing throughout Central America and into Mexico, the plant thrives at altitudes of 1,500 to 2,500 meters (4,900 to 8,200 feet) above sea level. It requires several years to grow into a tree before producing flowers. Pinning down the plant’s name requires a more complicated investigation. In English, it’s called angel’s trumpet; its Latin name is Brugmansia candida; and in various countries in Spanish, it’s flor de campana (bell flower), lengua de tigre (tiger’s tongue), or trompetita (little trumpet).
In Guatemala, the flower’s common name differs between departments and even towns. You might find it referred to as campanula or flor del sueño. At the Vivero y Café La Escalonia, a lush nursery at the south end of 5a Avenida in La Antigua, the plant is called florifundia. There, you can purchase one with yellow or pink flowers for Q18.
The hand-painted wooden sign labeling the florifundia warns that the flower’s strong aroma induces sleep, and parts of the bloom can be highly toxic if ingested. Its intoxicating aroma is especially pungent at night, and hardly noticeable during daylight.
Sniffing the flower can cause symptoms ranging from sneezing to a state of inebriation. Supposedly, in Peruvian folk medicine, a person suffering from insomnia might be prescribed to sit below a Brugmansia tree to find rest.
Even if precautions are taken to avoid inhaling its scent, just the sight of the magical Angel’s Trumpet tree may entrance those who discover it.