Sacred Datura: Photos from a Beautiful, But Poisonous Plant

It is a member of the Solanaceae (the Nightshade Family), and it contains both species of great agricultural value (tomatoes (eggplants) and highly poisonous species. There are nine species in the Datura genus, covering both tropical and temperate regions. The Hindu term “dhatura”, which means “thorn apples”, is the root of the word “datura”.

 Dangerous beauty

Toxic hallucinogens can be found in many parts of a datura plant. They can cause delirious behaviour, even death, in foraging animals and humans.

Many names

Sacred Datura can be found from sea level to elevations up to 7,000 feet (2130 meters) along the arroyos and sandy flats in these arid lands. This plant is also known by many other names, including moonflowers, moon lily and moonflower, Indian apple, angel’s trumpet, devil’s trumpet, tolguacha and locoweed.

Strong roots

Sacred Datura can grow to 2 to 3 feet (0.65 to 0.9 m) in height and 6-8 feet (11.8 to 2.4 m). It has a fleshy taproot. The smooth margins of the leaves are arranged alternately on sturdy, strong stems. The colour of the leaves is medium green with a grey underside. The leaves emit an unpleasant odour.

A Sacred Datura plant produces dozens of large, fragrant trumpet-shaped blooms during the growing season. The flowers are usually rich, white with light lavender hues at the edges.

Night owls

The flowers of Sacred Datura measure 6-8 inches (15-20 cm) in diameter with five slender teeth at their edges. They open in the evening and close at noon the next day. 

Doing the job

This is a night-blooming flowering plant, so it must be pollinated with nocturnal insects. Common pollinators include hawk moths and various species of the sphinx. In the early morning, many species of bees and even hummingbirds help in the life-sustaining process. 

Spreading love

The result of fertilization is a globe-shaped seedpod that is very spiny. They split open when ripe and release semicircular yellow-brown, flattened seeds. 

Many are important

Native American cultures use sacred dagga in religious ceremonies. Since ancient times, it has been used by spiritualists, medicine men, holy men, and self-declared witches. Because all parts are bitter, accidental ingestion by humans or animals is rare. 

Beauty and bitterness

The contrast between the trumpet flowers of Sacred Datura and its poisonous, alkaloid components makes it a beautiful gift of nature. However, one should be careful about its potential danger.

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