Resident Naturalist Gina Gilson leads a tour through the medicinal garden. Her upbeat energy is reflected in the responsiveness of her tour group and the garden is instantly filled with bursts of laughter, oh-s and ah-s, and unending questions. Noses scrunch and eyes widen as the groups use their senses to identify plants she knowledgeably plucks from branches. Waiting for their aha-moment, she giddily munches on a deep purple wild clover. Approaching a thin-branched tree, however, she tweaks her facial expression just enough to hint at a change in the playful pace. She raises her finger and our eyes follow until they meet the angle’s trumpet.
Instantly, I sense a deceptive innocence in the pale peach flowers gently swaying overhead. I imagine them to be like delicate bells; faint chimes sounding in my head, beckoning me closer to their subtle, addictive scent – which is particularly stronger at night. Their physical allure alone is mesmerizing, but eating the flower of the angel’s trumpet, genus Burgmansia, has far graver consequences. Gina cautiously explains that eating the blossom – a hallucinogen – induces temporary insanity, a violent high, and vomiting. With her familiar chipper voice she adds that the plant does have a beneficial medicinal property: chopping up the green leaves and steeping them in boiling water relieves symptoms of asthma.
Blog contribution by Alex Fylypovych, UGA Costa Rica Photojournalism Intern