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Brunfelsia jamaicensis (Benth.) Griseb. 1862
pronounced: brun-FELZ-ee-uh jam-ay-KEN-siss
(Solanaceae – the nightshade family)
common names: Lady of the Night, Jamaican Lady of the Night
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. Jamaicensis is botanical Latin for ‘of Jamaica’.
This species, as one would expect from the specific, is endemic to Jamaica, where it grows in mountain forests above 1400 m in elevation. It is now considered rare and endangered in its native habitat, which is rapidly disappearing.
This is a shrub growing 2 – 3 m high, but tending towards the smaller size. It is not frequently seen in Australian gardens, but deserves to be more popular than it is, especially due to its fragrance.
It has simple alternate leaves, a glossy mid- to dark green in colour, oval or obovate in shape, approximately 4 – 8 cm long by 2.5 – 5 cm wide, with rounded or sometimes emarginate apices and attenuated bases. The foliage is fairly dense.
The long tubular flowers are white in colour, appearing as tubular buds before opening, and turning to cream as they mature. They are about 5 cm in diameter, and have 5 broad petals with undulating edges. They are very fragrant, the scent intensifying in the evening. It has been described as being like that of frangipani, with citrus overtones. There is quite a long flowering season.
This plant is best grown in a position where it receives good light in the mornings, and some protection, such as dappled shade, from the hot afternoon sun. Once established, it requires little care.
Like many members of the nightshade family, the plant contains some toxic alkaloids, and can be poisonous to cats, dogs and horses due to their brunfelsamidine content. In dogs, the symptoms of poisoning are strychnine-like gastrointestinal, neurological and cardiac symptoms.
Photographed in Picnic Bay 2016
Page last updated 30th July 2018