Datura stramonium goes by the common names jimsonweed and moonflower because its flowers open fully only at night, and only for one night each. A member of the deadly nightshade family, datura stramonium leaves and seeds are highly toxic to humans and animals. It grows in the wild in many areas of the United States in the Southwest, Midwest and from New England to Florida. Though it's actually an annual herb, it is often considered a weed, flourishing from May to October.
Recognize datura stramonium by its shape, color and size. It grows in large groupings of branching plants, up to 5 feet tall with large green leaves that resemble those of sunflower. Study the flowers so you'll know what to look for: a long, funnel shape in light violet to lavender, opening fully only late at night.
Follow your nose. You may very well smell this plant before you see it. Datura stramonium literally stinks. A rank, pungent odor.
Look in the dry flats around the foothills in ditches and by roadsides anywhere in the Southwest. Datura stramonium grows best in the lower elevations of mountainous areas, up to about 7,000 feet.
Find datura stramonium growing wild in overgrazed pastures, on farms and in fields from New England to Florida. It loves the full sun of an open field and livestock won't touch it, so it's easy to spot.
Check out soybean fields in the south and central parts of the United States. According to Cornell University, datura stramonium is the most common weed to be found among soybeans.
Tips & Warnings
- Look for datura stramonium seed pods in the late summer and early fall. They're easily recognized for their green, spiny, walnut-like shape. Just don't eat them: They are poisonous.
- Don't allow children near a datura stramonium. A few seeds accidentally ingested can kill a small child.
- Photo Credit Datura image by Lennart Lundquist from Fotolia.com