The Angel of Death is a character that exists, in concept, in almost all religions. I tend to consider my garden my religion, with a first hand relationship with god and nature. So then it is no wonder that in my garden there is also an Angel of Death.
Like most angels, the Datura is a beautiful specimen. It has a glorious trumpet shaped flower that opens at dusk and releases a wonderful scent for all to enjoy. It is no surprise that datura’s also carry the common name of Angel’s Trumpet.
But Datura’s, for all their beauty and elegance, are one of the more deadly plants you can have in your yard. Thomas Jefferson, an avid gardener, would not allow the flower to be grown in his garden, for fear that it would kill one of his grandchildren.
Datura is one of the more dangerous members of the belladonna family (which is kind of like saying that Squeaky Fromme was one of the more dangerous members of the Manson Family). They contain a devastating cocktail of strychnine, hyoscine, hyoscyamine and atropine. Daturas are so lethal that they have been used throughout history and literature as a means of killing a person or committing suicide. Supposedly, it was even used as an execution drug for criminals.
And yet, oddly enough, it also served a pharmaceutical purpose as an ancient Viagra.
But before anybody go running out to find this organic alternative treatment for erectile dysfunction (as if the whole death thing were not enough to deter), it may be that the men who were treated with this for male problems did not in fact have sex after using it. But rather imagined it.
Like many toxic plants, Daturas are useful as medicinal herbs but dangerously so in that the concentrations of the useful toxins vary drastically from plant to plant. What may be a proper dosage from one plant could be a lethal dosage from another. Therefore, common sense would tell you that perhaps you should find another plant to cure what ails you.
Yes, I have children and, yes, I have datura in my yard. I just figure that realistically a good half of the plants in my yard are lethal if ingested in the right (sometimes small) quantities. My children have learned that you should never eat a plant unless an adult (preferably their garden savvy mother) tells them it is okay. Let’s hope this lesson carries through to when they are teenagers looking for a cheap high.