|Solandra grandiflora - Chalice Vine
- Solanaceae - Tropical zones of South America, Mexico
FAMILY: Solanaceae (Nightshade Family)
Solandra Grandiflora, more popularly known as Chalice Vine or Cup of Gold, is a perennial fast-growing climbing vine or liana. This vine quickly takes root and grabs onto the surrounding vegetation for support, the base stalk is thick, heavy and ropelike. These vines can easily exceed over 100 feet (30 meters) in length, each node on the branch will sprout tendrils and take root, giving the whole plant more stability and a larger root system to improve its ability to access essential nutrients: water, minerals, sunlight, ect. The leaves grow directly from the main stalk and side branches and are uniformly dark green, thick, with a smooth supple texture; they can grow as large as 6 inches (15 cm) in length, 3 inches (7 cm) wide and are oval shaped.
Chalice Vine is well known among gardeners, and is revered for its large ornamental flowers, which are yellow, grow up to 10 inches (25 cm) long, and are distinctly shaped like bells or chalices. The flowers will begin as bright, brilliant white and yellow with purple or brown stripes spiraling inside, and as the flower ages its color will darken, ranging in shades from chartreuse, amber, lemon and golden yellow; hence the well earned moniker, Cup of Gold. The flowers bloom in the evening or night and produce a strong sweet fragrance, which smells similar to coconut. In the wild they produce large yellow, white berries that contain many tiny seeds for future propagation, as the berries ripen they change color from light yellow to deep red. However, when Solandra Grandiflora is cultivated as an ornamental, it is usually grown from cuttings and the fruits are rarely if ever seen.
Cup of Gold is indigenous to the central Mexico region, naturally growing as far south as Chiapas and as far north as the sub-tropical regions of the Southern United Sates. In the United States it is known to grow wildly in Southern California, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama South Carolina, North Carolina and Florida. Cup of Gold also grows in Central America, and has even spread to South America, and to several of the Caribbean islands. It has also been seen growing in the West Indies, and Australia.
Scientific analysis of the entire Solandra family has shown that they all contain psychoactive compounds to a varying degree, with Solandra Grandiflora producing the highest percentage yields, by weight. Analysis of Solandra Grandiflora has shown that the major psychoactive compounds that give this plant its magical properties are tropane alkaloids. Although the entire plant: flowers, leaves, stalk, roots and berries have significant quantities of tropane alkaloids, it is the roots system that contains the highest percentage of active compounds. Specifically, Chalice Vine produces: (-)-hyoscyamine, 3alpha-acetoxytropane, 3alpha-tigloyloxytropane, atropine, cuscohygrine, hyoscine, littorine, noratropine, norhyoscine, norhyoscyamine, nortropine, tigloidine, tropine, valtropane, x-tropine. Taxonomically and chemically, the Solandra family of flowers is very closely related to two other Nightshade family plants: the Datura family, notably Datura metel (Indian Thorn Apple) as well as the Brugmansia family, like Brugmansia sanguinea (Blood-Red Angel's Trumpet), and all have similar hallucinogenic effects.
TRADITIONAL USE: Many aboriginal Indian tribes from central Mexico and northern Central America have long believed in the magical and mysterious powers of Kieli / Kieri (Plant of the god’s), some of these tribes include the Huastec, Huichol, and Mixtec; there are even pre-Colombian, Aztec era artifacts clearly depicting Kieri that may actually predate their Peyote (Lophophora williamsii) cult rituals. Peter T. Furst, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, has extensively studied the tribes and cultures that live in Mexico and Central America, and has written several well received books and many academic papers about the aboriginal people of Mesoamerica, including: “Kieri and the Solanaceae: Nature and Culture in Huichol Mythology.”
Although Kieri was regarded as a powerful magical drug and aphrodisiac, the traditional wisdom is that this plant is surrounded by evil forces and that the witchdoctors and shamans that use this plant are likely practicing the black arts, witchcraft and harmful dark magic. The shamans use this plant to induce ecstatic trance states, but only on rare occasions and then only sparingly, because they fear that the evil forces will overwhelm them while they are under its influence and it will steal their life force. Because this plant is considered evil, they believe that only malicious, sinister shamans use it; as such, much of its traditional use has been kept secret, so ethnographic reports on this plant are scarce. The few reports that do exist describe highly ritualized usage. The Huastec eat the fresh flowers as a way to induce deep trances where they are able to answer difficult questions and diagnose ailments. The Mixtec are also known to give offerings to the plant before they consume the fresh flowers to induce divination states.
The best known and most widely studied usage of the Solandra family comes from the Huichol Indians from the state of Jalisco, Mexico. The Huichol Indians have a long history and an elaborate mythology surrounding their origin and the Solandra flower. The elders in the community teach the children that the God of wind and magic, Kieli Tewiali, came to earth and morphed into the Solandra vine. Kieli Tewiali was the son of the Cosmic Serpent and the Rain, he came to earth to benefit humankind by transforming himself into the beautifully fragrant flower; the Huichol believe that by laying down to sleep next to the flowers, the fragrance will enter their body and transport them, through their dreams into a realm of mystical enlightenment. They believe that the plant can help them achieve the highest level of consciousness.
TRADITIONAL PREPARATION: Like many of the hallucinogenic plants found throughout Mexico and Central America, the native people have developed many different preparations to harness the plant’s magical properties. Some tribes simply eat the fresh flowers to induce ecstatic trance states; a similar method involves pressing the fresh stalks and drinking the juices that are extracted. Other tribes make a tea by steeping the dried stalks and roots in hot water and drinking the resulting infusion. Several tribes crush the fresh leaves and form them into an anal suppository. The most popular and well documented method of ingestion requires the flowers, leaves and roots to be dried, crushed and mixed into a blend of other hallucinogenic herbs to be smoked.
MEDICINAL USES: Solandra Grandiflora is widely used, in Mexico, as an aphrodisiac and magical love potion. Traditional folk medicine wisdom believes that by giving a man a decoction made from the flowers and roots of the Cup of Gold, a man will be driven to the lady that is most loved in his heart. The love potion will increase his sex drive, bringing out his animalistic nature, and they even warn that this potion can cause excessive sex drive and cause a man to die by completely ‘drying’ him out. The Huastec Indians collect the morning dew that precipitates on flowers and use this as an eye drop to improve sight and reduce the irritation caused by eye infections. There is also a belief that the tea made from the leaves has the ability to reduce the severity of coughs.
TRADITIONAL EFFECTS: Many Mesoamerican Indian tribes liken the effects of Solandra Grandiflora to those that are produced by Lophophora Williamsii (Peyote), but the effects of Solandra are a much more frightening experience and can even scare a man to his death. The tea made from the flowers is said to produce a psychosis that can last for over thrity-six hours and produce extreme hallucinations, delusions and even complete delirium. The effects are said to be almost exactly like those of Brugmansia Sanguinea. The effects produced by smoking the dried leaves and flowers are reported to be much more subtle and shorter in durations, but still are potently psychoactive and still produce strong aphrodisiac effects. The effects of smoking this plant are said to be very similar to the effect produce when smoking other Nightshade family plants: Brugmansia, Datura, and Latua pubiflora. This is clearly a very powerful Shamanic traveling plant that needs to be studied with great care and forethought.
Dickey, R.D. (1956). The Genius Solandra in Florida. Florida State Horticultural Society. (PDF).
Furst. P.T. (2007). Visions of a Huichol Shaman. University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.
Knab, T. (1977). Notes concerning use of Solandra among the Huichol. Economic Botony.
Queen Elizabeth II Botanical Park. (2001). Park Leaves: Flowering Vines of the Botanic Park. biotanic-park.ky (PDF).
Ratsch, Christian. 2005. The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and Its Applications. Park Street Press; Rochester, VT.
Russell, Alice. (1997). Solandra spp. Poisonous Plants of North Carolina. ces.ncsu.edu
USDA. (2009). Solandra Grandiflora. usda.gov