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Datura stramonium
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Phylum: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Solanales
Family: Solanaceae
Genus: Datura
See text below

Datura is a genus of 12-15 species of vespertine flowering plants belonging to the family Solanaceae. Their exact natural distribution is uncertain, due to extensive cultivation and naturalization throughout the temperate and tropical regions of the globe, but is most likely restricted to the Americas, from the United States south through Mexico (where the highest species diversity occurs) to the mid-latitudes of South America. Some species are reported by some authorities to be native to China, but this is not accepted by the Flora of China, where the three species present are treated as introductions from the Americas. (It also grows naturally throughout India and most of Australia). According to the old ayurvedic medicinal system (at least since 2000 BC) in India, this plant has versatile uses in medicinal preparations.

Datura is a woody-stalked, leafy herb growing up to 2 meters. It produces spiney seed pods and large white or purple trumpet-shaped flowers that face upward. Most parts of the plant contain atropine, scopolamine, and hyoscyamine. It has a long history of use both in S. America and Europe and is known for causing delerious states and poisonings in uninformed users. Common names include jimson weed, Hell's Bells, Devil's weed, Devil's cucumber, thorn-apple (from the spiny fruit), pricklyburr (similarly), and somewhat paradoxically, both angel's trumpet and devil's trumpet (from their large trumpet-shaped flowers), or as Nathaniel Hawthorne refers to it in the the Scarlet Letter apple-peru. The word Datura comes from Hindi dhatūrā (thorn apple); record of this name dates back only to 1662 (OED). The Hindi derives this word from Sanskrit vedic literature that dates to long before 2000 BC[citation needed].

They are large, vigorous annual plants or short-lived perennial plants, growing to 1-3 m tall. The leaves are alternate, 10-20 cm long and 5-18 cm broad, with a lobed or toothed margin. The flowers are erect or spreading (not pendulous), trumpet-shaped, 5-20 cm long and 4-12 cm broad at the mouth; color varies from white to yellow, pink, and pale purple. The fruit is a spiny capsule 4-10 cm long and 2-6 cm broad, splitting open when ripe to release the numerous seeds.

Datura species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Hypercompe indecisa.


Some species formerly included in Datura are now classified in the separate genus Brugmansia; this genus differs in being woody, making shrubs or small trees, and in having pendulous flowers. Other related genera include Hyoscyamus and Atropa. its also used by sadhus as prayer flower for lord shiva

Cultivation and uses

File:Datura innoxia fruit split open.jpg
D. inoxia with ripe, split-open fruit

Datura contains the alkaloids scopolamine and atropine and has long been used as a poison and hallucinogen. The dose-response curve for the combination of alkaloids is very[citation needed] steep, so people who consume datura can easily take a potentially fatal overdose, hence its use as a poison. In the 1990s and 2000s, the United States media contained stories of adolescents and young adults dying or becoming seriously ill from intentionally ingesting datura.[1]

Records of use

Datura stramonium is also called jimsonweed. This name comes from the town of Jamestown, Virginia. Various versions of the story exist, but in the most common version, British soldiers sent to quell Bacon's Rebellion of 1676 were accidentally served this unfamiliar plant as food, causing many to be incapacitated for 11 days. Datura wrightii, also called sacred datura or western jimsonweed, has similar effects.

The effects of Datura can include a complete inability to differentiate reality from fantasy, blindness that lasts for days, and very bad "trips." Many experience accounts, generally quite negative, can be found at www.erowid.org. Numerous stories of datura-related deaths and critical illnesses can be found HERE.

Cultural references


In literature

  • Martin Cruz Smith's novel,"Nightwing" gives an excellent, if fictional account of datura usage and Hopi folklore surrounding same.
The distinctive datura flower

In music

  • Singer/songwriter Tori Amos penned a trance song entitled "Datura" for her 1999 album "To Venus and Back". The song features Amos reading a list of various plants that are growing in her garden over hypnotic piano and rhythms. She consistently mentions datura within the list, as if to indicate it is overgrowing and destroying her garden.[2]
  • Emcee MF Doom has a song of looped beats entitled "Datura Stramonium" from Volume 0 of his "Special Herbs' series.
  • In the opera Lakmé by Léo Delibes, Lakmé dies after eating datura leaves.
  • Datura is also the name of an Italian techno/trance group formed 1991 in Bologna by the musicians Ciro Pagano and Stefano Mazzavillani and the DJs Ricci & Cirillo. One of their biggest hit singles Yerba Del Diablo ("Devil's weed") also pays reference to the plant.
  • The band Murder By Death mentions datura in their song "Killbot 2000" from their album "Who Will Survive and What Will be Left of Them."
  • The psychedelic rock band Bardo Pond named a song "Datura" in his album "Set and Setting". Many other Bardo Pond album and song titles have been derived from the names of esoteric psychedelic substances.
  • The guitarist Buckethead named a song "Datura" in his album "Electric Tears".
  • Icelandic hard rock/stoner band takes its name from this plant(spelling it in Hindi, though "Dhaturah"), claiming that the plant has influenced its songwriting. In the song "The Devil is a Nice Guy" the singer/actor/keyboardist Kjartan describes his experience when he was strung out on Devil's weed and spent two days in the Icelandic Kárahnjúkar writing songs and chatting with the devil"
  • The Australian psychedelic rock band Grey Daturas takes its name from the plant.
  • The band Dane and the Death Machine's album Thanatron has a track entitled "Datura".
  • Argentine band Babasonicos mentions datura in their song named Esther Narcotica.

In film

  • In the movie XXX the darts used to knock out Xander (Vin Diesel) and that he later uses to appear to kill an undercover policeman are referred to as 'Datura knockout darts' by their creator.
  • A horror film by director Johnny Terris entitled 'Inside Inoxia' is based upon his personal experiences with Datura.
  • Datura is one of the incredients in 'zombie powder' in the movie Serpent and the Rainbow.

In games

  • In Tsukihime, Kohaku has a garden of Datura flowers that are used to create sedatives and hallucinogens.

Notes and references

  1. "Suspected Moonflower Intoxication (Ohio, 2002)" (HTML). CDC. Retrieved September 30. Unknown parameter |accessyear= ignored (|access-date= suggested) (help); Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  2. Attitude (UK) - November 1999

External links

Fischer, Louis Gandhi USA 1954

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