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Berger, E. and Ashkenazi, I. [Jimson weed poisoning]. Harefuah 2003;142(5):364-7, 397. View abstract.

Salen, P., Shih, R., Sierzenski, P., and Reed, J. Effect of physostigmine and gastric lavage in a Datura stramonium-induced anticholinergic poisoning epidemic. Am.J Emerg.Med. 2003;21(4):316-317. View abstract.

Side Effects

Jimson weed is a plant. The leaves and seeds are used to make medicine.

Children: Jimson weed is UNSAFE when taken by mouth or inhaled by children. They are more sensitive than adults to the toxic effects of jimson weed. Even a small amount can kill them.

Adegoke SA, Alo LA. Datura stramonium poisoning in children. Niger J Clin Pract. 2013;16(1):116-8. View abstract.

Mature sacred thornapple plants can grow up to 3 feet tall, and they branch out widely. Their leaves can grow up to 5 inches long, with short hairs and a noxious scent, traits that it shares with many of its peers. Their beautiful flowers tend to bloom from April through October and can grow to be 10 inches or longer in some species. Some researchers are looking into Datura metal absorption to remove heavy metals from various environments.

It is best to sow seeds 1/8-inch deep in fertile, well-drained soil. The ideal temperatures for seeding plants are 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit, and the plants enjoy sun to part shade and ample moisture. Datura plants can also be grown from cuttings of mature individuals. Many Datura species’ seeds germinate in late spring or early summer and often grow in places such as roadsides, pastures, orchards, ditches, unmanaged areas, etc.

What Is Datura?

Gardeners prize Datura plants (Datura spp.) for their distinct, elongated flowers and odd foliage. While some people around the world consider the plants to be weeds, others actively try to cultivate the plants in their garden. It is not a particularly difficult plant to cultivate, given certain circumstances, and the seed pods themselves are relatively hardy. With some easy steps, Datura plant care is a breeze.

The Datura genus represents around nine species of poisonous flowering plants that include the sacred thornapple (Datura wrightii, USDA growing zones 9 through 11), jimson weed (Datura stramonium, growing zones 6 through 9) and toloache (Datura inoxia, growing zones 9 through 10). The plants are sprawling annuals or short-lived perennials, perhaps best known for their wavy, trumpet-shaped flowers that can grow in many different colors.

Datura plants need a good deal of room, and they can grow quickly to reach several feet assuming the weather gets warm enough. They are commonly seen in pots, but they fair best in the ground, though they cannot survive cold weather. They require very little by the way of pruning and have few if any pests, though they may attract mealybugs, spider mites and whiteflies.

Jimson weed (Datura stramonium) is a beautiful, witchy plant that begins blooming in late summer and continues through the first frost. A member of the notorious nightshade family, its more famous cousins include tomato, eggplant, pepper, tobacco, and potato. Most members of this plant family are poisonous, and jimson weed is no exception. All parts of the plant are toxic, most particularly the seeds. Potent amounts of alkaloid compounds are present, which potentially cause convulsions, hallucinations, and even death if ingested. And as climate change increases the amount of carbon dioxide in the air, studies have found that the toxicity of plants like jimson weed only increases.

The genus name Datura comes from the Hindi word for the plant, noteworthy since most botanical names are derived from Latin or Greek. The origins of the plant itself are contested—every source I checked listed a different native origin, ranging from Mexico to India, and it now grows all over the world. Not surprisingly, it has found its way into many cultural and medicinal traditions. Ayurveda, traditional Chinese medicine, and Native American shamanistic practices all employ jimson weed medicinally or ritualistically. Its seeds and leaves are used as an antiasthmatic, antispasmodic, hypnotic, and narcotic.

Browse the Weed of the Month archives >

The Weed of the Month series explores the ecology and history of the common wild plants that most gardeners consider weeds.

Though the trumpet-shaped flowers are stunning, my favorite part of the plant is the devilish-looking seedpod. The size of a Ping-Pong ball and covered in spikes, the seed capsule splits into four parts like a monster’s maw, revealing the dark brown seeds inside. In the winter you might notice its tall, dry stalks bearing the prickly seedpods, which to me look like the scepter for a demon. With all its extraordinary looks and lore, jimson weed is a fascinating plant to contemplate (but maybe not cultivate)!

Jimson weed’s white to purple blooms are fragrant at night, attracting moths and other nocturnal pollinators, a common trait in white-bloomed plants. The rest of the plant, however, is stinky! Crush and sniff the oaklike leaves, and you’ll understand why domesticated and wild animals avoid eating this plant—it smells a bit like feet. Indeed, accidental poisonings tend be more common among humans than among other animals.