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Poisonous and Hallucinogenic Plants -Datura Stramonium (Jimson Weed)

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Datura stramonium, commonly known as Jimson weed, grows wild the world over. Its seeds can lie dormant underground and sprout into life whenever the earth above is disturbed.

Despite its pretty flowers and intoxicating scent, gardeners really want to get rid of this plant as soon as it grows, because it readily spreads its seeds and before you know it your garden is filled with datura.

Worse, datura is highly poisonous and even rubbing your eyes after handling the stems or leaves can dilate your pupils and make you feel odd, to put it mildly.

It is also highly poisonous to animals and pets, though most of them aren't stupid enough to try to eat datura stramonium, or any part of the plant. Its leaves and stem emit a foul-smelling odor that luckily animals don't like.

Birds get the blame of spreading ripe seeds far and wide, but we can only assume that either the birds ate them by accident, or they like the feeling of 'flying high'!

Birds are well-known for avoiding poisonous berries and fruits. Before the internet was born, watching whether or not birds ate the fruit of an unknown plant used to be a good way of telling if it was poisonous or not.

Datura stramonium is not only poisonous, it is a medicinal drug widely used by the pharmaceutical industry.

Jimson weed flower

Jimson weed flower

Jimson Weed got its name after the town of Jamestown in Virginia, where the first mass poisoning of datura stramonium occurred.

In 1676, a regiment of British soldiers under the command of Captain John Smith were attempting to stop the Bacon Rebellion in Jamestown, Virginia when the soldiers were given boiled stramonium leaves as part of their meal.

All of them acted extremely bizarrely, with hallucinations and deliriums that lasted for 11 days before the effects wore off, according to reports.

Since then, datura stramonium has been known in the US as firstly Jamestown Weed, later shortened to Jimson Weed.

In other parts of the world it is invariably known as:

devil's trumpet, devil's weed, devil'd snare, thorn apple, tolguacha, stinkweed, locoweed, datura, pricklyburr, devil's cucumber, hell's bells and moonflower.

The moonflower is in reference to its habit of opening its flowers at nighttime. Like all moth pollinators, it exudes a strong and delicious scent at night time to attract the moths.

Jimson weed flower open at night

Jimson weed flower open at night

Datura stramonium grows to heights of between 2' - 5' tall. It flowers from summer through to autumn and its flowers are normally white, through they can be tinged with pink, and have long bell-shaped flowers that point upwards.

The leaves are broad and coarsely toothed, giving it a distinctive tropical look.

Jimson Weed is a member of the 'deadly nightshade' family, solanaceae, and it produces two drugs, hyoscyamine and scopolamine, both are which are drugs normally given as a pre-med injection to patients about to undergo a general anaesthetic.

Both drugs are muscle relaxants that also dry up the mouth and throat, making it less likely that someone would choke to death on their own saliva while undergoing surgery.

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In hospitals, they are given in carefully controlled doses.

With datura, we have youngsters trying to emulate the effects, especially the hallucinogenic effects without having any idea of what is a safe dose or not.

How They Pump Your Stomach

They put a tube down your throat with a funnel attached to the other end. The funnel gets filled with fluid, and lifted higher than you so that gravity drains the fluid into your stomach.

It is then lowered to a bucket or other container on the floor where gravity again empties the fluid in your stomach and anything else lying there as well.

They then lift the funnel high and fill with fluid again, and repeat the whole process again and again until the fluids run clear.

If you are not unconscious you will be gagging and vomitting at the same time.

It is not a pleasant experience.

Datura stramonium can kill.

All parts of the plant are poisonous, and the poison is not diminished by drying, boiling, smoking or anything else you want to do with it.

It is not a pleasant high.

You will also have no memory of what has happened to you, under the effect of datura, but may recall seeing frightening visions not dissimilar to the DT's suffered by alcoholics on withdrawal.

Please do not be tempted to try this plant as a recreational drug.

I am warning your parents right now what to look out for, and you will end up in hospital getting your stomach pumped!

Disgusting though that is, it may just save your life.

Datura stramonium

Datura stramonium

Signs and symptoms of datura poisoning

Early signs: (people and animals)

  • rapid pulse
  • restlessness
  • polydipsia
  • depression
  • rapid breathing
  • nervousness
  • dilated pupils
  • muscular twitching
  • frequent urination
  • diarrhea
  • anorexia
  • weight loss

Fatal Cases

  • weak pulse
  • irregular breathing
  • lower body temperature
  • coma
  • retained urine
  • convulsions
datura stramonium Jimson Weed

datura stramonium Jimson Weed

Jimson weed seeds

Jimson weed seeds

Parents, please be on the look out for datura stramonium on waste ground near you. Look at the photos on this page so that you will know it when you see it.

It has very distinctive seedheads.

They are encapsulated within a spiny round ball, which when they burst open on ripening, reveals small kidney-shaped black or dark colored seeds.

The seeds are every bit as poisonous as the rest of the plant. If you pull the plant out of the ground by the roots, make sure you are wearing gloves, or if not, that you don't touch your face again before you get the chance to wash your hands.

Jimson weed, if not with seed can be disposed off on a compost heap, but if it has flowers or seeds it is safer to burn it, or bury it deeper than 2 ' in the ground.

Datura Stramonium Jimson Weed


Kenny Duncan from South Africa on April 27, 2016:

sup guys check out my hub here about legal hallucinogenic drugs in your house!

IzzyM (author) from UK on May 14, 2011:

Thanks Allan :)

allanp1 on May 14, 2011:

great article

IzzyM (author) from UK on March 03, 2011:

I thought that video was hilarious because he is wondering aloud what the plant is, and has later added text across the top of the video saying what it wasn't! Yes it's definitely one to look out for in view of its properties. Thanks for commenting :)

Maggie Griess from Ontario, Canada on March 03, 2011:

I feel sorry for the guy in the video. Hope he washed his hands real good after! Guess it is a good idea to always wear gloves when handling plants you are unfamiliar with!

I also have not seen this plant...but if it pops up in my will be gone pronto! great Hub!

Emma from Houston TX on March 02, 2011:

Nice article on poisonous and hallucinogenic plants.I also had the opportunity of know the botanical name of jimsonweed and also the hazardous effect of the seed to human consumptions.Also nice pictures.

IzzyM (author) from UK on March 01, 2011:

I think it's good to know so that you can take steps to stay safe :)

Fay Paxton on March 01, 2011:

Oh my! I remember seeing Jimson weed in bloom near a dump site and thinking they were so pretty, like Petunias. I had no idea they were poisonous!

voted up/useful

IzzyM (author) from UK on March 01, 2011:

There are quite a few different plants get called moon plants or moonflowers. Think all of them are poisonous too, but most of us have no desire to eat them so we're OK :)

RTalloni on February 28, 2011:

Oh my! Not my "moon plant?"

kimboy9-9 on February 27, 2011:

Before the internet was born, watching whether or not birds ate the fruit of an unknown plant used to be a good way of telling if it was poisonous or not.....................Good Artical

IzzyM (author) from UK on February 26, 2011:

According to this site here it does

earnestshub from Melbourne Australia on February 26, 2011:

I don't recognize the plant, but I will be looking out for it from now on. It sounds pretty dangerous. I feel sure it grows in Australia somewhere.

IzzyM (author) from UK on February 25, 2011:

I watched the video again, and you are right, the leaves all have tell-tale holes in them!! Something obviously liked them and lived to tell the tale! We assume they lived to tell the tale...

IzzyM (author) from UK on February 25, 2011:

You are 100% correct in that digitalis comes from foxglove. Even belladonna is used to make sleeping pills - a whole host of natural plants go into modern day medications. The big danger with datura is that kids today seem to think its a new legal 'high' but it is killing them!

Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on February 25, 2011:

Yikes! I've heard the name "Jimson Weed" before, but had no idea what it was or what it looked like.

Thanks so much for posting this very informative and important article!

Interestingly, according to the extreme close-ups in the video, it is apparently not poisonous to leaf-eating insects! (Darn!)

I have never seen this plant, so perhaps it is only an east-coast native. Interesting that poisonous plants find medical uses. I believe that the drug digitalis is also from a toxic plant: Foxglove.

Voted up & useful!

IzzyM (author) from UK on February 25, 2011:

You'll be on the lookout for it now, I bet!

Nan on February 25, 2011:

I don't think that I've seen this plant before.

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