Datura (Devil's Trumpet)

Datura is a genus of about 10 species of flowering plants in the family Solanaceae, which are mainly native to North America.
Daturas can grow to 2 m (7 ft) in height, with leaves ranging from small to large and gray-green to dark green. They are either annuals or short-lived perennials, characterized by showy, erect, trumpet-shaped flowers. The flowers are usually white, but sometimes yellow, pinkish and purple. They first grow upright, and later incline downwards, emitting an intense fragrance which is strongly attractive to insects such as moths.

Name meaning

The genus name comes from the Hindu word “dhatura”, which means “thorn apple”, in reference to the appearance of the seed capsules of the plant that are covered with thorns.

The plant is commonly known as Devil’s Trumpet, due to its toxicity and the shape of the flowers.

Datura symbolism

Datura symbolizes power and caution.

It is a powerful and deadly plant, but also a major religious and cultural symbol.

Interesting facts about Datura

Datura and Related Genera

Datura is closely related to Brugmansia, a genus in the same family. They both have similar looking leaves and fragrant, trumpet-shaped flowers that are deadly poisonous.
They look alike, but they are actually different plants. One of the main differences is that Datura flowers are erect, while Brugmansia flowers are pendulous. Brugmansia includes woody shrubs and small trees, while Datura species are low-lying herbaceous plants.

Is Datura Poisonous?

All species are extremely poisonous and highly dangerous!
All parts of the plant are toxic and contain tropane alkaloids such as atropine, scopolamine and hyoscyamine, which makes it one of the most dangerous and poisonous plants in the world. The plant is toxic to both humans and animals when ingested or inhaled. It can be fatally toxic at relatively low doses so caution is warranted. The symptoms of poisoning include flushing, hyperpyrexia, urinary retention, sinus tachycardia disorientation, confusion, hallucination, seizure and coma. If you or someone you know has consumed this plant, get medical help right away and do not wait for symptoms to appear!

Is Datura Invasive?

Some species are invasive and are capable of affecting the diversity of native plants.
For example, Datura stramonium, also known as Jimsonweed or Thorn Apple, is considered as aggressive weed and will spread into surrounding natural areas. It can be found in Europe, Africa, Asia, New Zealand, North, Central and South America, and is considered a weed in more than 100 countries.

Benefits and Uses of Datura

Many species have been used in traditional medicine.
Datura stramonium (Jimsonweed or Thorn Apple) is well known for its medicinal properties. It has been used to treat various ailments, such as rheumatism, gout, ulcers, wounds, bruises, swellings, toothache, cough, fever, asthma and bronchitis. It has also been used to treat insect bites and stings.
The plant has been used as a recreational drug, as well. The side effects can range from uncomfortable to dangerous. Extracts from this plant can cause hallucination, headache and convulsions. The tea from Datura is extremely hallucinogenic and can cause permanent psychosis.

Datura holds a great religious significance. It was used in religious ceremonies and rituals in various parts of the world.

  • The Native Americans used this plant for both magical and medicinal purposes. Datura wrightii, commonly known as Sacred Datura, was an important sacred plant of the Chumash people in the Santa Barbara area, used in coming of age ceremonies for boys. Chumash boys were given strong liquor, a tea-like preparation of this plant called “momoy”, as a rite of passage into adulthood. Among the Mohave, Zuni, Yuma, Cahuilla and other groups, Datura was used to communicate with spirits and even as a sleep and dream aid.
  • Datura played an important role in the religion of the Aztecs. They used it in initiation rituals and for ritual sacrifices. Those that survived the initiation would either “return a man” or not return at all.
  • In Ancient India, Datura was considered sacred and was used in religous rituals and ceremonies. The plant holds a unique place in Buddhism and has a great cultural significance in East Indian ritual and spiritual life. In Hinduism, the plant was believed to be a favorite of the Hindu god Shiva.
  • In Europe, during the period of the witch-hunts, the plant was considered an aid to witches and anyone caught growing was accused of witchcraft.

The plant was also used as a poison by Indian women to commit suicide or murder their husbands.

Datura Plant Data