COMMON NAMES: Arbol del Viento, Bolsa de Judas, Bolute, Chalice Vine, Copa de Oro, Cup of Gold, Cutaquatzitiziqui, Datura Maxima, Datura Scandens, Datura Sarmentosa, Floripondo de Monte, Goldcup Vine, Golden Chalice Vine, Goldkeltch, Hueipatl, Itzucuatziqui, Kieli, Kieri, Lipa-ca-tu-hue, Ndari, Perilla, Showy Chalicevine, Solandra Guttata, Solandra Herbacea, Solandra Hirsute, Swartsia Grandiflora, Tecomaxochitl, Tetona, Tima Wits, Tree of the Wind, Trumpet Flower, Tuay Thong, Windbaum, Wind Tree, Xochitecomatl
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, etc. The leaves grow directly from the main stalk and the side branches and are uniformly dark green and 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 (Queen Elizabeth II Botanical Park 2001).
Solandra plants are 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 begin as bright, brilliant white and yellow with purple or brown stripes spiraling inside, and as the flower ages the color darkens, ranging in shade from chartreuse, amber, lemon to 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 the plants produce large yellow, white berries that contain many tiny seeds, useful 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 (Dickey 1956).
Chalice Vine is indigenous to the central Mexico region, and naturally grows 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 (Furst 1995).
TRADITIONAL USES: Many Americans from central Mexico and northern Central America have long believed in the magical and mysterious powers of Kieli/Kieri, the Chalice Vine or Tree of the Wind. 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 peyote (Lophophora williamsii) rituals (Furst 1995). 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 papers about the aboriginal people of Mesoamerica, including: “Kieri and the Solanaceae: Nature and Culture in Huichol Mythology.”
Although Kieri is 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 divinatory states (Avila 1992).
The best known and most widely studied usage of the Solandra family comes from the Huichol Indians of Jalisco, Mexico. The Huichol Indians have a long history and an elaborate mythology surrounding their own 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 Kieri flower. The Huichol believe that by laying down to sleep next to the flowers, the fragrance will enter the body and transport them through dreams into a realm of mystical enlightenment. They believe that the plant can help them achieve the highest level of consciousness (Furst 2007).
TRADITIONAL PREPARATION: Like many of the hallucinogenic plants found throughout Mexico and Central America, Americans 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 use them as 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, which is then smoked (Knab 1977). In colonial Mexico, Solandra flowers were sometimes added to cacao drinks to enhance the effects (Ratsch 1998, 474).
MEDICINAL USES: Solandra grandiflora is widely used in Mexico, as an aphrodisiac and love potion. Traditional folk wisdom believes that by giving a man a decoction made from the flowers and roots of the Cup of Gold, he 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 create 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 a tea made from the leaves has the ability to reduce the severity of coughs (Ratsch 1998, 475).
TRADITIONAL EFFECTS: Many Mesoamerican peoples liken the effects of Solandra grandiflora to those that are produced by Lophophora williamsii (Peyote), but the effects of Solandra are much more frightening and can even scare someone to death. The tea made from the flowers is said to produce a psychosis that can last for over thirty-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 potently psychoactive and with strong aphrodisiac effects. The effects of smoking this plant are said to be very similar to the effect produce when smoking other Nightshade plants such as Brugmansia, Datura, and Latua pubiflora. This is clearly a very powerful shamanic traveling plant that must be treated with great care and respect (Knab 1977).
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 yield 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 root system that contains the highest percentage of active compounds. Specifically, Chalice Vine produces: (-)-hyoscyamine, 3-alpha-acetoxytropane, 3-alpha-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) and the Brugmansia family, such as Brugmansia sanguinea (Blood-Red Angel’s Trumpet). All have similar hallucinogenic effects (Evans et al. 1972).
Avila, B. “Plants in Contemporary Mixtec Ritual: Juncus, Nicotiana, Datura, and Solandra.” Journal of Ethnobiology 12, no. 2 (1992): 237–238.
Dickey, R.D. (1956). The Genius Solandra in Florida. Florida State Horticultural Society. (PDF).
Evans, W.C., A. Ghani, and V.A. Woolley. “Alkaloids of Solandra Species.” Phytochemistry 11 (1972): 470–472.
Furst, P.T., and B.G. Myerhoff. “Myth as History: The Jimson Weed Cycle of the Huichols of Mexico.” Anthropológia 17 (1966): 3–39.
Furst, P.T. “The Drunkard Kiéri: New Observations of an Old Problem in Huichol Psychotropic Ethnobotany.” Integration 5 (1995): 51–62.
Furst. P.T. (2007). Visions of a Huichol Shaman. University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.
Knab, T. “Notes Concerning Use of Solandra Among the Huichol.” Economic Botany 31 (1977): 80–86.
Queen Elizabeth II Botanical Park. (2001). Park Leaves: Flowering Vines of the Botanic Park. Biotanic-park. (PDF).
Ratsch, Christian. 2005. The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and Its Applications. Park Street Press; Rochester, VT.