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Datura is a genus of herb and shrub plants belonging to the Solanaceae. Originally from the American continent, different species now grow throughout the globe. Some of them are now classified under the name Brugmansia; commonly called Angel's trumpets , for the large (in some varieties up to 1 foot long) trumpet-shaped flowers.

All members of the genus, under whichever name, contain the anticholinergic alkaloids hyoscyamine, scopolamine, and atropine. One annual species, Datura stramonium, or the thorn apple, so called for its spiked seed pods, was grown for its alkaloid content and used in medicine.

Datura was supposedly used in witchcraft to induce hallucinations. If one ingests the plant, one does not stop dreaming even when awake. Hallucinations caused by anticholinergics are extremely powerful in that they can create fully realistic three-dimensional objects that blend in perfectly with the person's view of the world.

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.

Perhaps the most famous fictional account of jimsonweed intoxication is given in The Teachings of Don Juan by Carlos Castaneda. The narrator records several experiences with the subtly addictive "devil's weed," which his mentor describes as having power similar to that of a woman: "She is as powerful as the best of allies, but there is something I personally don't like about her. She distorts men. She gives them a taste of power too soon without fortifying their hearts and makes them domineering and unpredictable. She makes them weak in the middle of their great power." Like the Celestine Prophecy and many other spiritual books, it does not present itself as fiction; therefore many people have taken it literally and gone in search of these experiences.

The dose-response curve is very steep, so people who consume datura can easily get into the potentially dangerous zone. Datura is an anticholinergic, which may explain why the hallucinations are often called "daytime dreaming." In the 1990s and 2000s, the American media contained stories of teenagers and young adults dying or becoming seriously ill from intentionally ingesting Datura.


  • Datura discolor - Desert thorn apple
  • Datura inermis - Smooth thorn apple
  • Datura innoxia or Datura inoxia - Angel's trumpet, desert thorn apple, sacred datura, downy thorn apple, toloache, harige stinkblaar, barambal, black datura, enumu, semina daturae, stinkblar, hairy thorn apple, Indian apple, white thorn apple, prickly datura, pricklyburr
  • Datura kymatocarpa
  • Datura leichhardtii - Leichhardt's datura
  • Datura pruinosa
  • Datura quercifolia - Chinese thorn apple
  • Datura reburra
  • Datura stramonium - Jamestown weed, jimsonweed, mad apple, moonflower, stinkweed, stinkwort, thorn apple
  • Datura wrightii - Sacred datura, sacred thorn apple

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See also

Datura is also the name of a trance song by singer/songwriter Tori Amos. Appearing on her 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. The flower, in the song, is used as a metaphor for destructive relationships.

Last updated: 08-30-2005 23:16:48
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