Rubiaceae, Psychotria poeppigiana, hot lips, labios de puta


Native to the forests of Panama, this photo was taken in Soberania national park on the Pacific Side. The species ranges widely in the tropical Americas, from from Chiapas, OaxacaTabasco and Veracruz in Mexico to the very north of Argentina. It does not occur on the Pacific side of the American cordillera however, and is thus absent from El Salvador and Chile. It is probably also absent from Uruguay and Paraguay.


I have propagated this Psychotria poeppigiana from seeds and cuttings collected in the dry tropical forests on the Pacific Coast of Panama.


This species has been used as a hunting fetish, as a magical talisman to  facilitate hunting. The leaves and flowers would be placed in a bundle and tied to the collar of dogs when hunting taipir. In Suriname the plant is crushed then boiled, the resulting liquid can be used as wash for headaches. This same preparation can be used as an external wash for sprains, rheumatism, muscular pains and contusions.

The Wayana indians of Suriname use bark raspings from the stem and rub it on a skin rash known as "poispoisi". The red, sap-filled inflorescence are used for an antalgic to treat earache, administered by dropping the sap into the ear canal. The inflorescence is used to remedy whooping cough.

This species of psychotria has also been used as a P. viridis analogue in ayahuasca, containing significant amounts of DMT.


Psychotria viridis - Chacruna


Psychotria viridis shrub.jpg

Psychotria viridis is a perennial shrub of the Rubiaceae family. In the Quechua languages it is called chacruna or chacrona. In Quechua, chaqruy is a verb meaning "to mix". P. viridis grows to a height of approximately 5 m (16 ft). Its branches span a diameter of about 2 m (6 ft 7 in)


Neotropics. Amazon basin, South America. 


This species of Psychotria is used by indigenous peoples of western Amazonia, primarily as an additive in the preparation of a hallucinogenic drink ayahuasca, also called yage, employed for healing and divination. Although in some instances ayahuasca can be prepared in the absence of Psychotria, the addition of the plant greatly enhances the visionary effect of the brew due to the significant amounts of DMT present in its leaves. DMT, or N, N-dimethyltryptamine, is a tryptamine alkaloid.

Other plants with significant quantities of DMT include: Mimosa tenuiflora (=M. hostilis), Anadenanthera peregrina, Acaciapolyacantha, A. cornigera, A. maidenii, A. nubica, A. plebophylla, A. polyantha, A. senegal, A. simplicifolia), Calliandra spp., Desmodium spp. Mucuna pruriens (Fabaceae), Virola peruviana, V. elongata (=V. heiodora) Epenña, Yakeé (Myristicaceae); Banisteriopsos argentea, B. rusbyana (Malpighiaceae); Prestonia amazonica (Apocynaceae); Psychotria peoppigiana, adn P. psychotriaefolia (Rubiaceae); Arundo donax, Phalaris arundinacea, Phragmites austraiis (Poaceae) and Zanthoxylum spp (Rutaceae).

Psychotria viridis, chacruna.jpg


Psychotria viridis is hardy in USDA zone 10 or higher. The plant is fairly easy to propagate from seeds, stem cuttings, or leaf cuttings. Some resources state that the plant is extremely difficult to propagate from seed (as low as 1%!), but I have not found this to be the case. I would probably note that treating the seeds in their own fermenting fruit pulp can improve germination. 

The plant does, however, reproduce most readily from fresh leaf cuttings. I have looked for evidence of leaves dropping off the plant and self-propagating as such. I have noticed that some plants will produce seed heavily for a while, then the bulk of the shrub will slowly die off, sending up a few new shoots in succession from the base of the trunk. 

P. viridis leaf cutting propagation.

P. viridis leaf cutting propagation.