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Parents Warned About Deadly Flower
Dec 3, 2003
Originally published in Business Day
Cape Town police today warned parents about an innocuous looking plant which could "give their children a high" but also has deadly consequences.

Their warning comes after a concerned Brackenfell, Cape Town mother contacted the police. She said her 14-year-old son had been rushed to Karl Bremer Hospital after he arrived home last month. He started hallucinating and his pupils became dilated.

A 19-year-old was treated at the hospital for drinking the juice of the plant, commonly known as "moonflower."

At least 20 known cases of treatment of moonflower poisoning were recorded at Karl Bremer Hospital between February and June this year. All the children had since been discharged from hospital and had made a full recovery.

Police inspector Erica Cooke and Inspector Riaan Potgieter interviewed a number of teenagers and found that many were familiar with the "drug" although it is not listed as such.

Cooke said moonflower was a seasonal plant common in gardens.

"It bears flowers and grows in a shrub form and looks like a St Joseph's lily with white and pink flowers," Cooke said.

A police forensic laboratory report said the flowers were usually boiled to make "black tea" or the flowers were eaten.

The main active ingredients of the plant was hyoscyamine and hyoscine.

Hyoscyamine causes drying of the mucous membranes, dilation of the pupils with visual disturbances, flushing and dryness of the skin, alternating slow and rapid heartbeat with palpitations and arrhythmia, difficulty in urination as well as constipation, vomiting, confusion, and dizziness.

The report said brain injury and renal failure could result from untreated symptoms. Seizures and convulsions occurred at times.

"In very high doses the central nervous system gives way to coma, circulatory respiratory failure and death."

Hyoscine causes dilation of the pupils and visual disturbances. Amnesia sometimes occurs after high doses.

The report said the onset of symptoms occurred within 30 to 60 minutes after drinking the black tea, and between one and 4 hours after eating the plant.

The symptoms last between two and three days but visual impairment can last between one and two weeks.

Comments on experiences written by people who experimented with moonflower and related species can be viewed on the web site www.smokedot.org or www.erowid.org.

"From this report it is clear that the effects of this plant... can be highly dangerous or even lethal," Superintendent Charles Summers said.

"It is important to us that parents be aware of the danger this plant poses, as well as be able to recognise the symptoms should their children ever eat this plant, or drink its juice."