The leaves are alternate and simple, with shapes generally elliptic to ovate. The flowers are large and tubular, with five broad petals. Typical habitat is light woodland and thickets. Species in cultivation include Brunfelsia americana ("lady of the night") and Brunfelsia pauciflora. Linnaeus named the genus for early German herbalist Otto Brunfels (1488–1534). The cultivated plant is commonly called "yesterday, today, and tomorrow" due to its color changes.
Many members of this genus contain toxic and medicinal alkaloids. Brunfelsia grandiflora is used by curanderos in South America as an additive to ayahuasca and contains the psychoactive chemical scopoletin. Scopoletin has no N atoms and is not an alkaloid. Brunfelsia hopeana contains the alkaloid hopeanine.
Brunfelsia australis is actively promoted by nurserymen for its dramatic tri-colored blooms and drought resistance.
Brunfelsia has always been placed in the family Solanaceae, where it is a member of the tribe Petunieae, the same group that also includes Petunia. This placement is also supported by molecular data.
- Filipowicz & Renner (2012)
- Clipsham R (2012) Brunfelsia australis (Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow tree) and Solanum poisoning in a dog. J Am Anim Hosp Assoc 48(2):139-144
Filipowicz, N., and S. S. Renner. 2012. Brunfelsia (Solanaceae): A genus evenly divided between South America and radiations on Cuba and other Antillean Islands. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution doi.org/10.1016/j.ympev.2012.02.026.
Plowman, T.C., 1979. The genus Brunfelsia: a conspectus of the taxonomy and biogeography. In: Hawkes, J.G., Lester, R.N., Skelding, A.D. (Eds.), The Biology and Taxonomy of the Solanaceae. Academic Press, London, pp. 475–491.
Plowman, T.C., 1998. A revision of the South American species of Brunfelsia (Solanaceae). Fieldiana Bot. n.s. 39, 1–135.
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