Thorn apple has trumpet-shaped flowers and spiky fruit, and grows up to 3ft tall. It has poisonous flowers and seeds and can cause hallucinations.
Jill Turner, a toxic-plants expert at Kew Gardens in South-West London, believes its spread could be due to bird-feed manufacturers adding its seeds to their mix.
Thorn apple is also known as Jimson weed, and its scientific name is Datura stramonium.
It is smoked as a mind-altering drug in some countries, and Native American witch doctors use it in ceremonies and to induce coma in unsuspecting victims.
“It probably appreciates the warmer and drier summers we have been having recently.”
English Name(s): Thorn Apple, Devil’s Snare
Will self-seed freely, dig, pull or hoe out plants before seed is set and compost if you do not want volunteer seedlings next season. Plants that have set seed need to go in the green waste collection or burned. Always wear gloves and thoroughly wash hands after handling this plant.
A stout and vigorous branching plant with white, funnel-shaped flowers in summer, followed by the notorious, prickly, egg-shaped and very poisonous fruits. An interesting plant but of course one that has to be treated with caution and respect. 3ft (90cm)
Flowers: July, August, September, October
Almost as soon as she had identified it, she was inundated with online messages from far and wide warning her that it was highly toxic. The species originates from South America, where it has been used by tribespeople as a toxin on arrowheads to incapacitate prey. It has also been sold in the US as jimson weed, which is used to produce a hallucinogenic effect.
“They belong to the same family as deadly nightshade and are highly poisonous if eaten, but they should pose no threat if treated carefully, and unwanted plants can be consigned to the compost bin or green waste collection.”
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Daffodils, heart’s ease and phlox might be expected in an English country garden – and hollyhocks and forget-me-nots – but a hallucinogenic and highly toxic South American plant used for poison arrowheads might seem a little out of place.
Professor Monique Simmonds of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew said the plant has become established in parts of Europe, including France, and it is possible that it will be able to survive a British winter. It is also likely that it has appeared in Britain before, as its toxins have been identified contaminating garden refuse and other products.
A spokesman for the Royal Horticultural Society added: “These plants are not native to Britain and we think it arrives in bird seed sold to feed wild birds and generally grown in hot countries where Datura is a very common weed.