Datura (Jimsonweed – The Devil’s Weed)

Datura (jimsonweed – The Devil’s Weed)

Datura stramonium The Devil's Weed
Datura stramonium (Jimsonweed)

Datura is truly the Devil’s Weed. An herbaceous annual plant that is found in southern United States, Mexico, Central and South America, as well as India, Africa, and parts of Europe. Its nativity is rather unclear but they have certainly found a home on many continents and survive in somewhat warmer temperatures and can survive well even in dry areas. They are many times referred to as jimsonweed, the devil’s weed, toloache, thorn-apple, devil’s trumpets, hell’s bells, among others.

Datura comes in many species around the world. There is Datura stramonium, Datura metel, Datura inoxia “Toloache”, Datura ceratocaula “torna loco”, Datura discolor, Datura wrightii, Datura ferox, Datura leichhardtii, and Datura quercifolia. Most of the Datura are pronounced by their spiny seedpods which ripen to split open to scatter its seeds on the ground.

Although I have seen one other variation of Datura¬† with smooth seedpods, Datura ceratocaula, or “torna loco” is a semi-aquatic or water Datura that grows in shallow swamps in southern Mexico smooth and is well known for its smooth seedpods. It is said that Datura ceratocaula is one of the most potent forms of Datura giving it the highest concentration of alkaloids and I have read this on more than one occasion. They are also thinking, because of its smooth seedpods, that it could be the link between Datura and Brugmansia, which is the larger cousin commonly known as Angel’s Trumpet.

This brings me to my next order of business. The Brugmansia and the Datura are very similar in appearance and as a matter of fact the Brugmansia was at one point classified as Datura. But Brugmansia is in fact a separate genus. So how can you tell them apart?

seedpod of Datura Stramonium The Devil's Weed
seedpod of Datura Stramonium

Here is the difference: Brugmansia is a tree and Datura is a shrub or bush. Datura flowers grow outwards and upwards. Brugmansia, on the other hand, will always hang upside down . The seedpods of Brugmansia will always be smooth, and grow in a variety of different shapes depending on the species. Datura, with the exception of Datura ceratocaula and Datura stramonium var. inermis, all other species of Datura have spiky or somewhat prickly thorns that cover the pod. The seedpods slightly resemble the shape of an apple and for this reason it is also called the Thorn-apple.

Datura has a long history of interaction with man and goes back thousands of years. In its relationship to man it has been used by shamans as a tool to opening the spirit world and indeed the reports of those who ingested Datura were not quite ready for the trip. Like Atropa belladonna and the other tropane containing plants, The poisoning brings the user to a very different and often difficult reality. It could very well be the key to the other realms. But along with this tremendous power, it brings one to madness and delirium. In Carlos Castaneda’s The Teachings of Don Juan, Don tells Carlos that taming the devil’s weed (Datura inoxia) is extremely difficult. That there is an order to it and without that order there is only chaos and insanity ad infinitum.

Datura stramonium
Datura stramonium

That is usually the description of those who enter her realm without a plan or the right intention. Many adolescent teens looking for a cheap high or psychedelic trip come across Datura having no background knowledge of the powerful type of drug that are the tropane alkaloids. In a handful of cases across the united states, deaths have resulted from dancing with the deadly Datura. In so many instances, when I read a report on a datura experience it always culminates in a trip to the ER due to the delirium that accompanies a Datura trip. The user can also start to experience things like kidney failure and various other life-threatening conditions. Some people are left with a permanent psychosis, problems in cognitive function, and vision impairment. Datura doesn’t play games she is the REAL DEAL and those who come around looking for a ride get much more than they bargained for…

Like Atropa belladonna, Datura has been utilized by shamans and witches for the purpose of astral-flight and accessing other dimensions and realms. It is a powerful tool and has also been included as an ingredient in the flying ointment, the salve is rubbed on the skin or genitals and when absorbed gives one the power of flight (astral travel).

For quite a long time Datura has also been employed medicinally  in bone setting, rheumatism, ulcers, asthma, and treating a variety of aches and pains. The alkaloids atropine, scopolamine, and hyoscyamine have been used in the pharmaceutical industry for such things as motion sickness, stomach ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, and other intestinal disorders.

Datura metel
Datura metel

On the other hand, Datura has in many cases been used to poison and kill. When made into a powder by extracting the alkaloids, scopolamine, atropine, and hyoscyamine they have potential for all the dirty tricks one can think of. In India, prostitutes were known to make an extract with Datura metel known as “knock-out drops” and when in the heat of passion the drops would put the client down for the count, and rob them blind.

Datura is another favorite of mine. Her allure is magnetic and mysterious. She is the temptress, calling you in by the sweet fragrance of her blooms, but what awaits inside is power beyond words and only certain minds have the qualifications to work with the devil’s weed. I love growing her she has brought me some wonderful blooms and I was left with hundreds of seeds. My favorite bloom is of the Indian Datura metel, with her double blooming blend of purple and white, absolutely gorgeous to see. To sum it all up, Enjoy her blooms, enjoy her sweet fragrance, but be warned, If you approach Lady Datura without respect, she will bring you to Hell and have your soul!