Jimsonweed, the Devil’s Trumpet 2

Brooklyn JImsonweed

Brooklyn jimsonweed seedpod by Ava Chin

Brooklyn, NY. My Urban Forager posting on jimsonweed made today’s Metro section of the New York Times (“In This Wicked Weed“), and it was thrilling to see this somewhat dangerous beauty there. I’ve been looking for Datura ever since my editor pointed it out to me, and was excited to find it in Gowanus recently. (Andy originally wanted me to take it and write about my experiences for the Local, but with common names like “mad weed” and “crazy weed”—and since I’m not a college student with fantasies of being Hunter S. Thompson—I passed). It’s growing like crazy all across the country from NYC to southern California.

Jimsonweed in bloom

Jimsonweed in bloom by Ava Chin

Datura stramonium is an extremely beautiful plant with a scent that’s reminiscent of tahini meets peanut butter, although I read another writer suggesting it smelled like stale semen (he used another word).

In India, Datura metel is considered Shiva’s plant (thank you @mad100) and used in Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine. Many Native American communities used D. innoxia or inoxia for vision quests and rites of passage, but a few saw D. stramonium as simply being poisonous.

Most accounts of recreational drug use of the plant on Erowid have been harrowing—with the exception of one user who had taken the time to grow the plant from seed, reared it to maturity, prayed to it, and collected the seeds when it was mature. Most Datura users probably aren’t going to be doing that, and experienced terrible hot flashes, delirium, chasing phantom cigarettes, and encounters with imaginary combative people. Even Carlos Castenada’s Don Juan was loathe to experience Datura again, stating it’d almost killed him.

I’m not one to say that a plant is wicked (despite the Times title)—I believe in thoroughly respecting a plant’s properties for what they are, positive or negative. I’m just not planning on making a salad with it.

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2 thoughts on “Jimsonweed, the Devil’s Trumpet

  • VC

    Hello Ms. Chin,

    I am looking for poisonous plants in NYC or nearby to photograph. I am especially interested in the Solanacae/Nightshade family such as Belladonna, Jimson Weed & Mandrake et al.

    I am wondering if you could recommend any specific locations or gardens where I could find such poisonous plants or other visually interesting poisonous plants.

    Thank you

  • Ava Chin Post author

    Hi Damen,

    If you’re in Brooklyn, I’ve found jimsonweed in 2 spots–by the entrance at Greenwood Cemetery (just through the gates, outside the bathrooms); as well as in Gowanus (on Union and Nevins; just before the bridge you’ll see a very urban garden hugging the side of an arts’ building. The jimsonweed flourishes there.

    As for belladonna, et al., I’m not so certain, but I’m pretty sure the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens has some of what you’re looking for. The woman who wrote the “Wicked Plants” book gave a promo talk there for her book a few years back. Kate Blumm used to be the p.r. person at the Gardens.

    Good luck and let me know how it goes.