Saturday, May 10, 2008

Deadly beauty...

This plant was origionally sold to me as Datura metaloides, but some research tells me that this is probably Datura inoxia v. metaloides. Your more likely to know it under one of its common names, Jimson weed, Angel Trumpet, Devils Horn, Devils Apple, Thorn Apple, Yerba de diablo... among others.

The blooms measure 5 inches wide, and each trumpet is 8 inches long. During a full moon in the heat of summer, the plants can produce over 100 blooms a night, in well watered garden conditions, and while the plant is extremely beautiful, it shows up in history more for its poisonous and narcotic properties.

The name Jimson weed should probably refer only to another member of this Genus, D. Stramonium. In 1676, British soldiers were sent to quell an uprising in the colony of Jamestown Virginia, known as Bacon's Rebellion. On their way, they landed to forage for fresh food on land before heading further south. Soldiers pulled some of the plants, most probably mistaking them for the highly edible Burdock, and threw them in the pot with other greens. The British sailors then consumed the greens and promptly went AWOL and berserk for the next 5 to 11 days... (accounts as to the time frame vary) Since the plant was credited for saving the rebels, the plant became known as the Jamestown weed, and then overtime this has bees simplified to Jimson. Incidentally, Roman soldiers under the command of Julius Ceasar also fell prey to another relative, D. alba, with much the same result.

Ingesting of any part of this plant can result in various symptoms, up to and including death, but that hasn't kept a few rather daring idiots from trying to find Nirvana by chewing it. Most of the time, they end up in the hospital for the next few weeks, and occasionally they end up dead.

Here in my yard, it is in an enclosed area, to keep it away from the more experimentally inclined, and I just let it be beautiful with one exception... every morning I pull off the last nights blooms, for three reasons.

one: If allowed to go to seed, one plant can easily turn into thousands... and

two: The plants bloom better when not allowed to go to seed, and

three: most people who try to get a "high" off of it do so by chewing the seeds, and they won't be getting any from my yard...

Other than placement, the plants live up to their weed heritage... they are not fussy at all about soil conditions, and, while they like a little extra water and minimal fertilizing, they don't require it. Here in zone 7, they sprout from the root every spring, and grow to 3 feet high and sprawl 4 to 5 feet wide. Further north, you will probably need to mulch it heavily, or allow one or two of the thorny seed pods to develop.


  1. These are being seen everywhere in south Florida now...seems like they have really become popular...I can see why...the blooms are just incredible! I didn't know the history on it, or the fact that it is experimented with edibly...I am too big a chicken to ever try it!!!

  2. hey julie, they're definitely impressive. As for their use as a drug... the amount that induces hallucinations is very, very close to the amount that can kill you. Also, the "high" (if that's what you want to call it) has been reported to last as long as a couple of weeks, and people have reported not really recovering from it for months. If there's anybody out there thinking of it, DON'T DO IT. As for accidental ingestion, the taste is so horrid that most people and animals will spit it out and spend a good half hour trying to get the taste out of their mouth. You'd have to be pretty determined to swallow it.

  3. We call it Sacred Datura, and the seeds are sold in garden shops and nurseries here is AZ. As a matter of fact, it is recommended by the DBG as one the the wildflowers to grow in our region. Perhaps our conditions are so harsh that it doesn't spread that easily. I planted some two years ago and it never came up.
    When I was a kid, farmers called it Loco Weed.

  4. When I bought my Angel Trumper (I have the pink one and the scent at night is DIVINE) the people at hte nursery made me promise to plant in behind a fence, away from public "reach" because teenagers in our area have died from trying to use it as a drug. I guess before we move here there was a campaign of sorts to remove it from accessible locations. I picked it out for my front entryway, where it would be PERFECT, but ended up planting in back. At least I get to enjoy that musky, heady aroma!