It is an evergreen perennial plant growing to 4 m tall. The foliage grey-green, with elliptical leaves 10–15 cm long. The flowers are red, tubular and 2-lipped and are produced in a sympodium pattern. It thrives in dry soils.
Its latex is used as an abortifacient, and a hallucinogen, which may explain one of its common names, Tabaco del Diablo (Devil's tobacco). Ironically, this plant has been used as a counter effect herb on nicotine addiction because of alkaloid Lobeline, a nicotinic agonist. The Mapuche Indians of Southern Chile consider it a sacred plant. Tupa leaves have also been found to contain chemicals that act as a respiratory stimulant.
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