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jimson weed seed pod

Jimson weed’s white to purple blooms are fragrant at night, attracting moths and other nocturnal pollinators, a common trait in white-bloomed plants. The rest of the plant, however, is stinky! Crush and sniff the oaklike leaves, and you’ll understand why domesticated and wild animals avoid eating this plant—it smells a bit like feet. Indeed, accidental poisonings tend be more common among humans than among other animals.

Jimson weed (Datura stramonium) is a beautiful, witchy plant that begins blooming in late summer and continues through the first frost. A member of the notorious nightshade family, its more famous cousins include tomato, eggplant, pepper, tobacco, and potato. Most members of this plant family are poisonous, and jimson weed is no exception. All parts of the plant are toxic, most particularly the seeds. Potent amounts of alkaloid compounds are present, which potentially cause convulsions, hallucinations, and even death if ingested. And as climate change increases the amount of carbon dioxide in the air, studies have found that the toxicity of plants like jimson weed only increases.

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The Weed of the Month series explores the ecology and history of the common wild plants that most gardeners consider weeds.

The genus name Datura comes from the Hindi word for the plant, noteworthy since most botanical names are derived from Latin or Greek. The origins of the plant itself are contested—every source I checked listed a different native origin, ranging from Mexico to India, and it now grows all over the world. Not surprisingly, it has found its way into many cultural and medicinal traditions. Ayurveda, traditional Chinese medicine, and Native American shamanistic practices all employ jimson weed medicinally or ritualistically. Its seeds and leaves are used as an antiasthmatic, antispasmodic, hypnotic, and narcotic.

The Weed of the Month series explores the ecology and history of the common wild plants that most gardeners consider weeds.

Crop rotation: Not a weed of small grains or forages.

Rotary Hoeing: Hoe before weeds exceed 1/4 inch in height. Once jimsonweed is established it is difficult to control.

Emergence:

Found on most soil types, but prefers rich soils, including disturbed soils rich in manure (i.e. barnyards).

Seed:

Production Range: Without competition one jimsonweed plant can produce 50 or more seed capsules and 30,000 or more seeds. Each seed capsule generally contains 600 to 700 seeds. Under severe competition one plant may only produce 3 to 4 small seed capsules. Seed capsules are produced until the first hard frost.

Summer annual. Jimsonweed emerges in spring (May through mid-June), sets seed in late summer/fall and dies with the first killing frost.