Nancy may not want any night-blooming jasmine in her garden, but she does know its true identity: Cestrum nocturnum, a member of the nightshade family, a relative of tomatoes, eggplant and tobacco. And, more menacingly, belladonna and henbane, two plants beloved by witches. Nightshades, including Cestrum nocturnum, contain scopolamine and atropine, hallucinatory alkaloids that produce a sense of flying when ingested. Ancient moon worshipers and practitioners of dark arts made a salve of the plants and, as the legend goes, applied it with a broomstick, leading to the whole flying-witches mythos.
Cestrum nocturnum, then, is a trickster of a plant, the perfect flower for a city that’s full of secrets, where the land can never be laid flat, even on celluloid. It might smell sweet, but it’s a toxic, head-spinning sweetness. Maybe smell is like desire. Try too hard to grasp it, to examine it, to catalog it, and it slips away in a haze of unseen molecules. Close your eyes, let the kiss come and it is perfect, delicious, seductive; turn on the lights and suddenly it’s all teeth and lips and tongue and saliva.