Nicotiana clevelandii A. Gray


Solanaceae (Nightshade Family)




Cleveland's Tobacco 

                                        April Photo


Plant Characteristics:  Narcotic-poisonous, heavy scented viscid-pubescent annual, 2-6 dm. tall, mostly branched; lvs. ovate or the upper lanceolate, sessile or short-petioled, 3-6 (-18) cm. long; calyx 5-parted, 9-12 mm. long, the linear lobes distinctly unequal, the longest much exceeding the tube; corolla +/- slaverform, whitish, tinged with violet, 1.5-2 cm. long, the limb 8-10 mm. broad, 5-lobed, spreading; stamens 5, one shorter than others, caps. 4-valved, 8-10 mm. long.


Habitat:  Occasional in sandy places below 1500 ft.; Coastal Sage Scrub, Coastal Strand; near the coast from Santa Barbara Co. to n. L. Calif.; Colo. Desert; Santa Cruz Id.; Ariz. March-June.


Name:  J. Nicot, French ambassador to Portugal, who introduced tobacco into France ca. 1560. (Munz, Flora So. Calif. 835). Clevelandii, the species is probably named for Grover Cleveland, former president of the United States or possibly for the ancient Roman with a similar name.


General:  One plant found in 1985 in Santa Ana Heights along the lower path from the Delhi Ditch toward Jamboree Rd.   In 1991, a wetter year than we have had for several years, this plant was common for about one-eighth mile along the bluffs easterly of the Delhi Ditch. (my comments).     The smoking of tobacco was more common among northern tribes and desert tribes than southern ones.  Smoking was a man's activity, unless a woman was a shaman.  The cured leaves were hung in little baskets.  Pipes were made of wood or soapstone.  (Dale 192).       Tobacco is the sacred plant of the Cahuilla, Indians of the Colorado Desert, the San Jacinto and San Bernardino Mountains, and its usage probably is more ancient than of its hallucinogenic relative of the Solanaceae family, Datura.  Tobacco was one of the first plants created by the god Mukat, who drew both the plant and a pipe from out of his heart.  Seeking a means to light his pipe, Mukat than created the Sun, but it escaped from his grasp and he was forced instead to light his pipe with the Western Light. (There is no explanation of the Western Light in the book).  Tobacco figures prominently throughout Cahuilla oral literature, where it is often associated with power, curing, gaming, the human soul, and many other activities and concepts.  At least four species of Nicotiana are indigenous to Cahuilla territory: N. trigonphylla, N. attenuata, N. bigelovii and N. clevelandii.   Among the Cahuilla, tobacco was chewed, smoked, or used in a drinkable decoction depending upon the purpose for which it was intended.  For smoking, several varieties of pipes were used.  Stone and clay pipes, occasionally with reed stems, were most common.  These pipes, owned by the men who used them, were for both day-to-day and special uses.  Certain pipes sacred to ritual were kept in the Cahuilla ceremonial bundle and brought forth only for community rituals.  Two common shapes of pipes were the tubular one without a handle, usually smoked in a prone position or with the head tilted back, and a smaller pipe, usually made of clay, which had a handle on the bottom.  (Bean and Saubel l90).  See N. bigelovii for more on Cahuilla use of tobacco.


Text Ref:  Hickman, Ed. 1072; Munz, Flora So. Calif. 835; Roberts 39.

Photo Ref:  March 5-April 1 85 # 19; May-June 91 # 3.

Identity: by F. Roberts.

Computer Ref:  Plant Data 284.

Have plant specimen.

Last edit 7/10/03.


                                   May Photo