Why blog about desert plants??

I never appreciated plants until I moved to Arizona. The sparse desert landscape unleashed my craving for life. Shortly after moving here from the lush Ohio countryside and cityscape, I fell in love with the wild flowers that erected themselves from the hard, cracked desert floor. The spattering of pink, white, purple, and yellow amidst the dry brown earth made me happy for these plants symbolized survival. I have been dabbling with desert flowers and plants for several years trying to give my yard "curb appeal". Here I will chronicle my fascination with desert plants.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


A member of the Solanaceae (so-lah-NAY-see-ee) family, also known as Nightshade or Potato family, Datura is a noxious weed with ancient medicinal background. The many species of this plant span both warm and tropical areas, with the most variety of the species occurring in Mexico and Central America. Datura inoxia (or wrightii) flourishes throughout the Southwest in ditches, on the sides of buildings, and along the roads.

Ancient rituals and other uses involving this toxic weed include priests from India eating the seeds in order to induce hallucinogenic oracular states; thieves in India and Europe used it to knock out their victims before robbing them; North American Indian tribes used the roots and the seeds to induce a hallucinogenic stupor given to boys in a coming of age ritual; the Chinese used it as an aphrodisiac; Greek and Roman physicians used it with opium as a sedative and general anesthetic for surgery; physicians in Europe prescribed Datura cigarettes to asthmatics. Known as "herbe aux sorciers" (herb of the sorcerers) and "concombre-zombi" (Zombi Cucumber) in the Caribbean, a strong herbal mixture containing Datura, the poison from the puffer-fish and other herbal extracts induced zombification which was then given to delinquents.

The species, stramonium, is infamously known by many as the poison that killed British soldiers in Jamestown, Virginia in 1607. After this event, colonist dubbed the plant "Jamestown weed" eventually evolving into the name jimson weed.

Datura is called by many other names: Jimson weed, thornapple, moon lily, tolguacha, and Devil's Trumpet. The plant contains a dangerous trifold of tropane alkaloides: hyoscyamine, atropine, and scopolomine which affect both the central and the autonomic nervous systems. Because alkaloids are fat soluble the skin and mucous membranes absorb them easily. In specific dosages these alkaloids may work together to induce hallucinations, delirium, or death.

The trumpet shaped flowers of Datura are white tinged with lavender with united petals. Its seeds are safely stored in a prickly capsule about two inches in diameter. The flowers bloom from April to November opening in the early evening and then closing upon feeling the sun's hot rays.

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