Brunfelsia australis



Brunfelsia australis

Benth. 1846

pronounced: brun-FELZ-ee-uh  oss-TRAH-liss

(Solanaceae — the nightshade family)


common names: yesterday-today-tomorrow, kiss me quick

Brunfelsia is named for Otto Brunfels (c.1488 – 1534), German theologian, physician and botanist. He is regarded as one of the fathers of botany because, in his botanical writings, he relied not so much on the ancient authors, as did other writers of his time, but described plants according to his own observations. Australis is Latin for ‘south’.

This genus consists of evergreen shrubs from tropical America. There are about 30 species, all having tubular flowers that change colour over successive days.

Brunfelsia australis grows slowly to 2 – 4 m tall and 2 m wide. The foliage is dense, and a medium green in colour. The shiny green leaves are leathery in texture, alternate on the stem, elliptic to oval in shape, 4 – 13 cm long and up to 3 cm wide. The young leaves are sometimes purplish in cool weather.

The flowers are about 5 cm in diameter with 5 broad petals, are very sweetly perfumed, and appear from September to late November. When they first open, they are violet in colour, fading to lavender blue and then white, with the three colours present on the bush at the same time. The flowers are usually grouped together at the ends of branches in clusters of 2 or 3, but sometimes up to 10. The plant responds well to pruning.

Although rarely seen to develop, the berries are globose to ovoid, green turning brown to black as they ripen. They are 1 – 2 cm in diameter, fleshy or leathery in texture. dangerous 2The berries have been known to poison dogs. Symptoms include fever, vomiting, muscle tremors, staggering and seizures. Dog-owners who grow this plant should carefully remove the berries as they form. All parts of the plant, including the roots, are poisonous. If any parts of the plant are ingested by humans, urgent medical assistance should be sought.

A word of warning: if you are buying this plant at a nursery, find a plant that is in flower, and smell the flower. Brunfelsia pauciflora is also often sold as Yesterday-Today-Tomorrow, and is a very similar plant; but its flowers have no perfume.

Another less common species is Brunfelsia americana. Its flowers also charge colour, but they are in the cream – yellow range. It is more fragrant at night, and is often called ‘Lady of the Night’.


Photographs taken at Picnic Bay 2010
Page last updated 23rd October 2018