Datura wrightii Regel


=Datura meteloides

                                                                      Solanaceae (Nightshade Family)                                                                                                    Native





                                     August Photo


Plant Characteristics:  Perennial, erect, widely branched, 5-10 (-15) dm. tall, minutely grayish-pubescent; lvs. unequally ovate, 4-12 cm. long, irregularly repand to subentire, on somewhat shorter petioles; calyx 7-10 cm. long; corolla white, suffused with violet, 15-18 cm. long, 10-20 cm. broad, with 5 subulate teeth ca. 1-2 cm. long; anthers ca. 1.5 cm. long, white; caps. nodding, 2.5-3 cm. long, densely prickly and puberulent; the spines 5-12 mm. long; seeds smooth.


Habitat:  Sandy and gravelly dry open slopes, below 4000 ft.; Coastal Sage Scrub, V. Grassland, Joshua Tree Wd., Creosote Bush Scrub, etc., cismontane and desert, cent. Calif. to Tex., Mex., N. S. Am.  April-Oct.


Name:  The Hindu name, dhatura.  (Munz, Flora So. Calif. 830). Wrightii, likely named for someone named Wright but since there have been several botanists with this name there is no way to know which one was honored here.  (my comment).   Greek, metel, the mad-solanum.  (Jaeger 154).  N.L., oides, a contraction of Gr. -o+eidos, denoting likeness of form, a thing that is like.  (Jaeger 172).  Meteloides, like metel.  (John Johnson).   Datura metal of India resembles this plant. (Parsons 56).


General:  Found only in one place, and this along the horse path in Santa Ana Heights, approx. one-quarter mile from Jamboree Rd.  Only two plants found.  These plants have reseeded themselves in subsequent years.  In 1998 found one plant at the end of Mariner's Dr. just above marsh level.  (my comments).      Jimsonweed is a native American nightshade that probably originated in the tropical regions of Central and South America and that now grows throughout the continental United States, Canada, and Hawaii.  The plant takes its common name from Jamestown, Virginia, where, in 1676, a group of English soldiers were poisoned after they used the leaves of the plant in a salad.  The whole plant is poisonous, and even the nectar from the flower contains enough poison to make a child sick.  When the plant is young, before the flowers or fruit have appeared, it is still very poisonous.  Symptoms of jimsonweed poisoning are similar to those of belladonna poisoning.  Victims of jimsonweed poisoning tend to be older than the victims of most other poisonous plants.  Typically these victims are teenagers or young adults who deliberately eat the plant for its psychedelic effects and poison themselves in the process.  Overdoses of jimsonweed can be fatal.  (Eshelman 138-140).       The root when pounded is a "good for anything" medicine; good for a cut, a gunshot wound, a bruise, etc.  A decoction of the root acts like opium.  Indian priests sometimes drink it for two days in succession in order to get fully under its influence and become prophetic.  Sometimes they were killed by it, which the Indians consider proof that their bowels were in bad condition.  (Powers 428).       This was a famous plant among the Indians because of its narcotic properties.  From the crushed roots they brewed a liquid, which was used in the rites of manhood.  It was also used to stimulate their young dancing women.  (Dale 192).      The common name, Jimson Weed, is said to be a corruption of Jamestown Weed, a name given in the Eastern states to an introduced relative, Datura stramonium.  (Balls 66).       Gamblers keep a root in a pocket, and eat seeds while gambling.  This enables them to become clairvoyant and guess correctly in hand games.  (Murphey 50).         Datura species have been found to accumulate free nitrates in quantities capable of causing death or distress in cattle. (Fuller 386).      At the time of initial European settlement in the late 18th century, the Chumash Indians of southern California were a group of about 15,000 people.  Their ancestors had occupied the Santa Barbara Channel coast and offshore islands for 8,000 years or more.  By the late prehistoric era they had become a classic example of "affluent foragers," with a complex, stratified society at the chiefdom level on a hunting-gathering-fishing economic base.  Datura is, of course, a hallucinogenic plant and was used by the Chumash for three principal purposes: first, establishing contact with a supernatural guardian to provide protection, special skill and a personal talisman; second, contacting the dead, finding lost objects, seeing into the future, seeing the true nature of people; and third, curing the effects of injury, evil omens or breaches of taboo, and providing immunity from danger.  For example, a person whose form was assumed by a coyote was in grave danger and should immediately take datura to prevent soul loss and death.  Harrington's consultants, natives who recalled the old uses of various plants, provided some additional data.  The four most important Chumash remedies were said to be datura, seawater drinking, cauterizing, and big red ants.  (Timbrook, J. "Virtuous Herbs:  Plants In Chumash Medicine".  Journal of Ethnobiology, Winter 1987, 171-180).       The Cahuilla Indians, inhabitants of the Colorado Desert, the San Bernardino and San Jacinto Mountains, used D. meteloides as a means of coming in contact with the sacred world.  For the Cahuilla shaman, datura offered not only the means to transcend reality and come into contact with specific guardian spirits, but it also enabled him to go on a magical flight to other worlds or transform himself into other forms of life such as the mountain lion or eagle.  Magical flights were a necessary and routine activity for Cahuilla shaman.  Datura was employed by the Cahuilla for a variety of medicinal purposes.  It was recognized as an effective pain killer.  The leaves were reduced to a powder with other plant parts and an ointment was made.  The ointment was applied to the afflicted area.  A medicinal paste of datura was also used to cure bites of tarantulas, snakes, spiders and various insects.  More recently datura paste was used to alleviate saddle sores on horses.  Hunters also used datura on long treks to increase their strength, allay hunger, and acquire power that would enable them to capture game. (Bean and Saubel 60).       Its toxic, mind altering properties have been documented for centuries and referred to in literature by Virgil, Shakespeare and others, but every spring somebody rediscovers jimson weed.  When brewed and drunk or when smoked, jimson weed targets the body's nervous system and causes seizures, brain damage and, sometimes, coma. "Every year we see a few foolhardy teen-agers who smoke it or drink it and get into trouble," said Philip Edelman, medical director at the Orange County Poison Control Center.  "Within a few minutes of ingesting even a small amount of the substance, people become delirious and incoherent and perform insensible motions, which cause most injuries associated with jimson seed," said Richard Tiffer, plant pathologist for the county's agriculture office,  "Four or five grams, about six teaspoons, could kill a small child," he said.  Symptoms of intoxication include dry mouth and skin, reddening of the face and neck, elevation of body temperature and blood pressure, rapid and weak heartbeat, and urinary retention, according to the American Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants.  Davis, Donna.  "Jimson weed is deeply rooted in history"  Orange County Register 14 May 1993.  Morning, metro sect., P.8.       This is a plant that should never be taken internally for any reason.  The primary alkaloid found in Jimson Weed is scopalamine, with varying smaller amounts of hyoscyamine and atropine, all highly toxic.  It is very useful for relaxing bronchial spasms in asthmatic attacks, the smoke from the leaves inhaled in any one of several ways.  (Moore, Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West 90).      About 25 spp. in warmer parts of all continents.   (Munz, Flora So. Calif. 830).      Sometimes cult. for showy fls.; may have been introduced by the early Spanish; may be the same as D. inoxia=D. meteloides. Native to Mexico. (Hickman, Ed. 1070).


Text Ref:  Dale 191; Hickman, Ed. 1070; Munz, Calif. Flora 600; Munz, Flora So. Calif. 830; Roberts 39.

Photo Ref:  July-Aug 87 # 14,15,22.

Identity: by R. De Ruff.

First Found:  August 1987.


Computer Ref:  Plant Data 312.

Have plant specimen.

Last edit 5/23/05.                                                                              


                                         October Photo