Datura or Datura meteloides is one of my personal favorites for its drought tolerance, tolerance of poor soil, striking appearance, and mysterious nature.
This plant is considered an icon of the Southwest thanks to Georgia O’Keeffe’s many famous paintings of the plant.
Datura has a long history with the Native peoples of the Southwest and was used in rituals and medicinally both internally and topically. Word to the
wise however, datura is highly toxic to people and animals. Many curious teenagers have ended up in the hospital emergency room attempting to experiment with datura. Truly it is not a plant to be toyed with. In fact, every portion of the plant is considered toxic and classified as a deliriant for its high levels of alkaloids: atropine, hyoscine, and hyoscyamine.
Datura is in the Solanaceae family also known as the nightshade family. More common members of this family are potatoes, tomatoes, and tobacco. It is also called moonflower, thorn apple, and angel’s trumpet because of its thorny seed pods and ghostly trumpet-like flowers that unspiral in the evenings and last until morning. Datura flowers throughout the summer and has a strong floral smell. This striking plant is pollinated at night by the hawk or sphinx moth, a large moth that has the appearance of a small hummingbird (tomato hornworm eh-hem). Datura prefers sunny warm locations but I have witnessed it thriving and flowering in partial shade. However, too much shade can lead to leggy plants and reduced flowering. Datura comes back from the rhizome every year and seeds itself readily. It emerges in late spring so don’t jump to the conclusion that it is dead and dig it up!
This plant can either be started from seed (soak overnight and seed in spring/summer) or found at your local nursery and can grow up to three feet tall and wide. Please take care in considering where you would like your Datura to grow because of its high toxicity. Please plant away from children or pets.
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