EVIL PLANTS @ The RiverLOCO WEED - Datura stramonium
(Another stinking weed)Lorri Levy-Comer
My Master Gardner friend, Bill, was awestruck at my fine example of jimsonweed: six feet of giant spiny burrs and pretty trumpet flowers. Jimsonweed, stinkweed, Jamestown weed, thorn apple, pricklyburr, devil's cucumber, and hell's bells—all are common names for Datura stramonium, a member of the nightshade family, Solanaceae.
This plant, found in low elevations throughout much of California, grows alongroadsides, in garbage dumps and abandoned lots, as well as on my own property on the Russian River in Monte Rio. It is not native to California but was introduced and has, unfortunately, naturalized here.
Several folks I met at the Occidental Farmers Market remarked that they had it growing in their driveways. Others mentioned hearing many tales of overdose, sickness and other hallucinogenic experiences caused by the devil’s weed, yet another common name forDatura stramonium.
You can recognize this Datura from its beautiful purple or creamy white trumpet shaped flowers that bloom June to September and by its walnut-sized fruits, which are actually egg-shaped seed capsules with a tough thorny covering, resembling burrs. It is an annualwith broad, irregularly toothed leaves and forked branches on very thick stems that can grow up to six feet tall. When the leaves are crushed, they are said to have a foul smell, hence another common name, stinkweed. To me, the crushed leaves smell like peanut butter!
Throughout the ages, Datura stramonium has been used for both intoxication and medicine. The weed has been dried and smoked to relieve symptoms of asthma and for other medicinal purposes. In Europe the plant was used for witchcraft, in salves or ointments. Throughout most European countries the seeds were used to brew beer at one time. Jimsonweed was also thought to cure deafness, soothe insomniacs, and cool the heat of fever.
Why, if it has so many medicinal qualities, does it have the reputation for being poisonous and dangerous? Because unfortunately, the toxic amount—and it is indeed deadly—for humans and animals is only slightly higher than the therapeutic amount. This results in many accidental illnesses and deaths. Datura stramonium is not to be underestimated! All of its parts are toxic to humans and livestock, particularly the seeds, which contain alkaloids. It often results in death if ingested.
In this day and age it is customary to destroy this plant, as it is extremely toxic to both animal and humans. If you have any growing on your property, it is safest to eradicate it either by physical or chemical means to avoid any accidental poisoning.