By: Kristi Waterworth
Nothing spoils a quiet trip through the garden quite like the sudden appearance of aggressive weeds. Although the flowers of jimsonweeds can be very beautiful, this four-foot tall (1.2 m.) weed packs with it a poisonous payload in the form of a spine-covered seedpod. Once this walnut-sized pod breaks open, control of jimsonweed becomes much more difficult.
Gardeners seeking jimsonweed information before new seeds scatter are at a distinct advantage in the battle against this beautiful, but treacherous plant.
Jimsonweed (Datura stramonium) is a smelly, but lovely, plant that’s native to India. It was introduced by colonists as they traveled across the country – the first settlers to notice this weed growing were at Jamestown. Several groups used the poisonous plant tissues and juices for medicinal purposes, including treating burns, coughs and as a painkiller.
But before you try it at home, be aware that this Datura plant is extremely poisonous – as little as 10 ounces of plant materials can kill livestock; humans burning or ingesting various parts of this weed have died trying.
This plant is easy to identify if you’ve seen it before, but if you haven’t, watch for thick, green to purple stems bearing deeply lobed or toothed leaves. A single purple or white, tube-shaped flower emerges from various spots near the leaf bases, expanding to reach between 2 and 4 inches (5-10 cm.) in length. Jimsonweed is known for its pungent odor and aggressive summer growth.
Jimsonweed control can be challenging, since seeds from past seasons can be brought to the surface while tilling. These seeds remain viable for up to a century, and with each pod producing up to 800 seeds, the sheer number of potential jimsonweeds is staggering. Fortunately, these plants are summer annuals and do not reproduce from root sections.
When attempting to control jimsonweed in the lawn, regular mowing is often all that’s necessary. Once you’ve had jimsonweed on your property, it may take many seasons to kill off all the seeds, but keeping them mowed so short that they can’t produce new seeds will help you wear the stand out.
Jimsonweed in the garden may need to be pulled by hand (wear gloves), or sprayed with an herbicide, due to the alkaloids it releases from its roots – these compounds are very dangerous to many other plants. When pulling this weed, it’s normally recommended that you bag the plant and its seeds in a plastic bag for disposal. (Since seeds remain viable for such a long period, it is a good idea to allow the bag to sit for up to a year or more.)
Pre-emergent herbicides can be applied to your garden spot before planting time if jimsonweed is a yearly problem.
Note: Chemical control should only be used as a last resort, as organic approaches are safer and much more environmentally friendly.
This article was last updated on
Jimsonweed is a tall herb plant. Jimsonweed poisoning occurs when someone sucks the juice or eats the seeds from this plant. You can also be poisoned by drinking tea made from the leaves.
This article is for information only. DO NOT use it to treat or manage an actual poison exposure. If you or someone you are with has an exposure, call your local emergency number (such as 911), or your local poison center can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States.
Life cycle: summer annual
Growth habit: erect, 2 to 4 ft. high, branching, leaves large, coarsely toothed, wavy margins, alternate all parts have strong, unpleasant odor and are poisonous
Reproduction: seed pod the size of a walnut and covered with sharp spines flowers large, funnel-shaped, lavender on purple-stemmed plants or white on green-stemmed plants
Conditions that favor growth: primarily a weed of open fields or agronomic crops found on all types of soil but prefers nutrient rich soils
Cultural control: manual cultivation before flowering occurs and seeds form maintain regular mowing in open areas to prevent flowering
Maintained by the IET Department of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. © 2021. Web Accessibility
University programs, activities, and facilities are available to all without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, marital status, age, national origin, political affiliation, physical or mental disability, religion, protected veteran status, genetic information, personal appearance, or any other legally protected class. If you need a reasonable accommodation to participate in any event or activity, please contact your local University of Maryland Extension Office.
Scientific name: Datura stramonium L.
Common name: Jimsonweed, thornapple, datura
Description: This coarse, heavy-smelling annual herb of the nightshade family has stout stems up to 4 feet tall. The leaves are alternate and up to 3 inches long, and the white corolla is delicately folded in bud. The fruits are erect and hairless and have spines. The related perennial species Datura inoxia Mill. also has a white corolla that reaches a length of 6 inches. The globose fruit hangs down. Hindu datura (Datura metel L.) and sacred datura (Datura meteloides DC.) also are poisonous.
Occurrence: Jimsonweed is found in dry soil, waste places, and barnyards. It is widely distributed throughout the temperate and warm-temperate regions of the world.
Toxicity: Jimsonweed contains the alkaloids hyoscyamine, atropine, and hyoscine (scopolamine). All parts of the plant, particularly the leaves, are toxic. Children havo been poisoned by sucking nectar from the large trumpet-like flowers, and from eating the leaves or seeds. The seeds are particularly dangerous and are often purposefully used for their narcotic effect. Deaths have occurred from direct poisoning from delirium and hallucinations accompanying their use.
Symptoms: Datura poisoning produces elevated temperature, nausea, thirst, dilation of pupils, weak and rapid pulse, convulsions, delirium, hallucinations, and death.
We consider a plant species to be “invasive” if it has moved into a habitat and reproduced so aggressively that it displaces some of the original plant species. The United States is under constant threat of invasive species. They can adversely affect biodiversity, cause the ecosystem’s instability, decrease land productivity, poison livestock, reduce wildlife habitat quality, diminish aesthetic value, and affect human health.
Managing invasive plants such as the tree-of-heaven, multiflora rose, and pigweed is therefore essential. In the home garden, there are certain invasive shrubs you should avoid. They include burning bush, privet, Japanese barberry, and the butterfly bush.
There is lots of information available to help you identify invasive species. The publication Invasive Forest Plants of the Mid-Atlantic is a full-color publication with descriptions of 25 of the most common invasive plants in Pennsylvania. Penn State Extension runs a workshop to help you learn about the impact of invasive plants and control measures using herbicides. A Master Watershed Steward and Master Gardener in Montgomery County also shares her experience of discouraging invasive species in her own garden.
I couldn’t help but drop back and punt on a true historical story documented behind the names of this plant… more commonly known as The Devil’s Trumpet...the trumpet because of the shape of its blooms.
When Stephanie shared one of these beautiful plants with me from the Farmer’s Market a few weeks ago…she told me the name and said it would be interesting to see how the name originated…especially since there is a plant called ‘The Angel’s Trumpet.”
I really didn’t think much about it at the time….I just loved the night blooms on it…reminded me of my moon flowers but enhanced with the purple rim beauty encircling the bloom.
A few days later, however, Doodle was the first person to warn me about this plant and probably how it got its name…it contains extremely toxic agents within the whole plant (from the roots to the stems, to the leaves) and can cause severe skin reactions, and if ingested sickness and death to animals and humans alike.
Doodle said she has one such plant but keeps it far away from the ‘mainstream’ of her other plants in her garden/yard and said that this might be a good idea for me too.
I definitely know that before the grandchildren come to play on the deck, again, that I need to move it to a remote area of the back yard …back where the woods begin perhaps. And I need to keep it in its container since it is quite aggressive and will take over a wide area if left to itself… another article cited.
Then yesterday one of our readers wondered if there was another name for this plant that could be substituted for The Devil’s Trumpet. I thought it would be interesting to find out and lo and behold a history lesson popped right up…and I certainly can’t pass on that opportunity!
The other names for this plant are the Jimsonweed and the Jamestown weed. (Jimson…of course being the nickname for James.) *The son of a James back then was named Jim.
It was actually the historical settlement of Jamestown, Virginia that provides the backdrop for a documented, strange occurrence that took place there in conjunction with this alluring but poisonous plant.
I googled and asked about the origin of the plant name – the ‘Jamestown Weed.‘ The first article only mentioned one short idea on the origin.
“This plant contains toxic tropane alkaloids, which have caused poisoning and death in humans and other animals. Jimsonweed is named for a case of human poisoning in Jamestown, Va., when soldiers were poisoned by eating the plant in a salad and then suffered delirium and hallucinations.”
With a little more probing I actually found an old historical document that cited just how bizarre the incident with the British soldiers (who ingested this plant) really played out.
Captain John Smith- Founder of Jamestown
Jimsonweed – Jamestown Story
In 1676, British soldiers were sent to stop the Rebellion of Bacon. Jamestown weed (Jimsonweed) was boiled for inclusion in a salad, which the soldiers readily ate. The hallucinogenic properties of jimsonweed took affect.
As told by Robert Beverly in The History and Present State of Virginia (1705): The soldiers presented “a very pleasant comedy, for they turned natural fools upon it for several days: one would blow up a feather in the air another would dart straws at it with much fury and another, stark naked, was sitting up in a corner like a monkey, grinning and making faces at them a fourth would fondly kiss and paw his companions, and sneer in their faces with a countenance more antic than any in a Dutch droll.
“In this frantic condition they were confined, lest they should, in their folly, destroy themselves – though it was observed that all their actions were full of innocence and good nature. Indeed they were not very cleanly for they would have wallowed in their own excrements, if they had not been prevented. A thousand such simple tricks they played, and after 11 days returned to themselves again, not remembering anything that had passed.”
Stephanie…if you ride by and see me running around, stark naked, screaming like a monkey…just smile and keep on riding…saying to yourself “That Ms. Dingle…she always was quite a character in her history classes.”
It is amazing just how many plants we use on a daily basis that are potentially poisonous to our pets or other wild grazing animals.
I know this year Anne didn’t plant any moon flowers for the first time in a long time because of her new dog Nala… she didn’t want to take a chance she might ingest the plant since she is still pretty much just a big curious puppy!
*And don’t forget from my children’s story research…that I discovered our own state flower (Yellow Jessamine) can be poisonous if mistaken for honeysuckle and ingested by children or eaten by deer.
So until tomorrow…Wisdom begins in wonder. Socrates
*From now on I think I will just refer to it as “Jimmy’s Trumpet!”
This page contains information regarding a plant "known to be poisonous" to goats as well as other animals. This information was researched from various resources. Please note, that the author is not a botanist or specialist regarding plants. This information is posted for your reference and comparison purposes only.
ALSO KNOWN AS:
Thornapple (nightshade family)
Alkaloid Containing Plant - This stout, coarse annual grows to 5 feet tall with strongly-scented, coarsely toothed, green or purplish alternate leaves. The large trumpet-shaped flowers are white or purplish and are formed singly at the forks in the stems. The fruits are hard, spiny capsules which split open along four lines at maturity to release numerous tiny black seeds. Jimsonweed commonly grows in cultivated fields, waste areas, barnyards, abandoned pastures, roadsides, and feedlots. Other Datura species (angel's-trumpets) are grown as ornamentals.
DANGEROUS PARTS OF PLANT:
All parts, especially seeds.
Animals will avoid eating Jimsonweed whenever possible. Even when forages are scarce, animals are reluctant to consume this plant. For animals, the danger lies primarily in the consumption of seeds that contaminate prepared feeds (hay, silage, grains, processed feeds). The plants may become palatable after the application of herbicides, thus greatly increasing the risk of toxicosis.
Once the plant is consumed, signs become apparent within a few minutes up to several hours. The alkaloids in Jimsonweed act on the central nervous system as well as the autonomic nervous system that controls bodily functions. Animals may seek water to drink, have dilated pupils, become agitated, may exhibit increased heart rate, tremble, become delirious, may appear to be experiencing hallucinations, have convulsions (which may be violent), become comatose, and possibly die. Consumption of Jimsonweed during gestation may result in abortions or birth defects.
Jimsonweed contains many toxic components, in particular the alkaloids, including atropine, hyoscyamine, and hyoscine (scopolamine). As much as 0.7% of the fresh weight of the leaves may be the toxic alkaloids, which is a very large quantity. The seeds are the greatest risk, with alkaloid concentrations believed to be greater than the leaves and stems, and even the nectar is toxic.
High. The plant and seeds are extremely toxic, this plant is abused as a hallucinogen in humans, and deaths in humans and animals have been reported.
All animals (including pets and poultry) may be affected.
CLASS OF SIGNS:
Dilated pupils, agitation, trembling, delirium, may appear to be experiencing hallucinations, convulsions (which may be violent), coma, and possible death. Abortions and birth defects have also been reported.
Prevent further exposure to the plant or contaminated feed. Exercise caution when working with affected animals to avoid human injury. Contact a veterinarian if signs are severe, since there are medications that can counteract the effects of the toxin. Also, if consumption was recent, contact a veterinarian quickly, since it may be possible to evacuate a large amount of the plant from the digestive tract before the toxicosis becomes severe. For less severely affected animals (a veterinarian will be able to assist in determining this), the clinical signs will resolve within a day or two, so keep animals quiet and undisturbed.
SAFETY IN PREPARED FEEDS:
Jimsonweed remains toxic when dry, therefore feeds are not safe for consumption. The small black seeds are very toxic and may contaminate prepared or processed feeds. Toxic signs will occur even when good forage is fed, and there is no reported "safe" quantity of Jimsonweed that can be fed.