Jimson Weed

Datura stramonium

Summary 4

Datura stramonium, known by the common names Jimson weed or datura, is a plant in the Solanaceae (nightshade) family, which is believed to have originated in the Americas, but is now found around the world. Other common names for D. stramonium include thornapple and moon flower, and it has the Spanish name Toloache
Datura stramonium generally flowers throughout the summer. The fragrant flowers are trumpet-shaped, white to creamy or violet, and 2 1⁄2 to 3 1⁄2 inches (6–9 cm) long, and grow on short stems from either the axils of the leaves or the places where the branches fork. The calyx is long and tubular, swollen at the bottom, and sharply angled, surmounted by five sharp teeth. The corolla, which is folded and only partially open, is white, funnel-shaped, and has prominent ribs. The flowers open at night, emitting a pleasant fragrance and is fed upon by nocturnal moths.[6]

The egg-shaped seed capsule is 1 to 3 inches (3–8 cm) in diameter and either covered with spines or bald. At maturity it splits into four chambers, each with dozens of small black seeds.[6]

Consuming Jimsonweed is considered a dangerous practice that can even result in death. Both this and other Datura species, however, have been used in traditional spiritual practices by various New World indigenous peoples. According to Schultes (1976), Jimsonweed is believed to have been the main ingredient in wysoccan, which was used by the Algonquin Indians of eastern North America as part of the ritual of initiation into manhood.

As in other members of the genus Datura, the main active agents in Jimsonweed are the anticholinergic tropane alkaloids hyoscyamine, scopolamine, and atropine, although many other physiologically active alkaloids may also be present. Alkaloid composition and concentration may vary among plant parts as well as among individual plants. Krenzelok (2010) reviewed medical aspects of Jimsonweed poisoning and its treatment. According to Krenzelok, treatment is mainly supportive, with the careful use of the cholinesterase inhibitor physostigmine in more severe cases of poisoning.

Jimsonweed may be native to North America, probably Mexico, but it is now widespread in vacant lots, along roadsides, and in other "waste places" in temperate and warm regions around the world. Jimsonweed can be a serious agricultural weed in maize and other crops. The large white to purplish trumpet-shaped flowers open in the early evening (for up to 24 hours) and are pollinated by evening-flying moths. Despite the apparent floral adaptations for moth pollination, Jimsonweed has a very high rate of self fertilization, often greater than 95% (although it may be as low as 80% for some individual plants). The factor that has been identified as most strongly contributing to this variation in outcrossing rate is the position of the stigma, i.e., whether it overlaps or protrudes above the anthers.

Sources and Credits

  1. (c) Roger Sanderson, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC), http://www.flickr.com/photos/88674001@N00/2655383036
  2. (c) http://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedystka:Nova, all rights reserved, uploaded by nataliemarisa, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Bieluń_dziędzierzawa_Datura_stramonium_Seed_01.jpg
  3. (c) Common Poisonous Plants of Hawaii, all rights reserved, uploaded by nataliemarisa, http://troop75.typepad.com/photos/common_poisonous_plants_o/jimson-weed-datura-stramonium-3.html
  4. Adapted by nataliemarisa from a work by (c) Wikipedia, some rights reserved (CC BY-SA), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Datura_stramonium

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