Every year, I deliberately allow this weed to mature in my wildflower garden. The flower is breathtaking, its fragrance is intoxicating (but not hallucinating, lol), and best of all it attracts the biggest, wildest-looking moth you have ever seen. Definitely makes for an enchanting evening.
Having grown up in Virginia, I was intrigued by one of the common names I saw recurring in my plant books—Jamestown weed—and researched the origins. One story simply connects the first New World observations of the plant to settlers in this early Virginia colony. A more famous tale tells of the plant’s accidental ingestion by some British soldiers sent there to suppress Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676. After eating some in a stew, the soldiers spent 11 days in a hallucinatory stupor, blowing feathers, kissing and pawing their companions, and making faces and grinning “like monkey[s].”
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.
I bought the plant small, was told it was a trumpet plant….planted it and it grew up, out…but I love the white flowers (even tho they don’t last long). I live in NY state and understand it will wither with the frost-Can I just cut it off at ground level until next year? It is huge-grew to 5’ top and sides! Do I have to dig it up and put it in a pot? I prefer leaving it in the ground.
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I noticed that the Moonflower and the Jimson flower look much the same, however, the leaves are different. Are they the same plant or just cousins and is the Moonflower also poisonous? My grandmother, Mother and I have all raised them in our gardens in Oklahoma and in Montana….
No plant should be wiped from the Earth. They all have purposes, good ones if not misused or over done.
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.
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The species you are referring to that blooms at night is NOT jimson weed, it’s a moon plant. It is part of the jimson family but not what people will find just growing in their yard in certain areas. Pure jimson weed blooms in the day that’s how you know the difference.
Hello, I just found this beautiful plant in my garden this year and was to excited UNTIL I read your article. How do I dispose of it?
Jimsonweed (A – plant beginning to flower; B – portion of stem with spiny seedpods).
Similar Species: It is distinguished by its tall, stout, branched stem (like small trees), large leaves, large, white or purplish trumpet-shaped flowers, large spiny seedpod and sour repulsive odour.
Photos and Pictures
Caution: The whole plant has a sour repulsive odour and all parts of the plant are poisonous.