Datura: Angel Trumpet of Death

Datura in BloomThe 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.

Datura is a potent hallucinogenic. Not only has it been used to kill people, it has also been used by more than a few cultures for spiritual enlightenment or a cheap high.

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.

16 thoughts on “Datura: Angel Trumpet of Death
  1. Daturas are actually known as the “Devil’s Trumpet” while Brugmansias are known as the “Angel’s Trumpet”.

    Brugs have the trumpet shaped blossom pointing generally downward, as if calling from Heaven; while Daturas have the trumpet shaped blossom pointing upward, after the fashion of trumpeting from the depths of Hades.

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  2. I see that the ‘cbif.gc.ca’ is relying upon very old research in its articles, and makes no distinction between the species of Brugmansia (arborea, aurea, insignis, sanguinea, suaveolens, versicolor and vulcanicola), and those of Datura (bernhardtii, ceratocaula, discolor, ferox, inoxia, leichhardtii, metel, meteloides, pruinosa, quercifolia, stramonium, tatula and wrightii). In fact, the Genus Brugmansia are entirely omitted from their reference.

    New research in the field has been conducted since the time-frame of the latest ‘cbif.gc.ca’ Datura citations, spurring numerous re-classifications of ornamental plants; which I see as a basis for respectfully regarding ‘cbif.gc.ca’ as a bit outdated.

    I agree that common name usage can be misleading (The CDC has perpetuated such inaccuracies in the past.); however, since the late-90′s/early-00′s, common usage of the respective names has polarized more toward the state indicated by my earlier comment. While common usage has ascribed both “Devil’s Trumpet” and “Angel’s Trumpet” to the Datura, only the common appellation of “Angel’s Trumpet” has been used for Brugmansia.

    Given that it was common, in the past, to find Brugmansia mis-classified as Datura–without qualification–one may well wonder if the “Angel’s Trumpet” usage was applied to the general form of nodding to pendant bloom bearers within the family Solanaceae, as opposed to the upright-blooming ground vines of the Datura Genus.

    In support of this interpretation, please see: http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/321/7255/219 where a medical practitioner discusses his experience with the sudden onset of unilateral mydriasis subsequent to contact with a plant that he describes both as an “Angel’s Trumpet” and as being of the Genus Datura. However, the photograph of the plant in question is clearly that of a specimen from the Genus Brugmansia. I suspect that this is a commonly made error–even among reasonably learned professionals.

    These are largely moot musings as contemporary common usage now largely follows the convention of applying the “Angel’s Trumpet” appellation to Brugmansia, and the “Devil’s Trumpet” nomenclature to the Datura. This convention follows along the general historic lines of the alternate common name usages for Datura which include: “Jimson Weed”, “Hell’s Bells”, “Devil’s Weed”, “Devil’s Cucumber”, “Thorn-Apple” and “pricklyburr”; none of which sound particularly angelic to me.

    You may find http://www.abads.org/ and http://www.abads.net/ to be generally helpful, with http://www.abads.net/aboutbrugmansia/aboutbrugmansia.htm , http://www.abads.net/description_and_identification_o.htm and http://www.abads.net/Rich_Sanders/rich_genus_datura.htm offering additional assistance.

    OK. I promise to quit being nit-picky, now. ;)

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  3. Thanks for the additional info. Very interesing.

    I know the difference between Brugs and Daturas because I own several of both. While perhaps in the academic world the use of the common name Angel Trumpet is not used in relation to Daturas, in the world of us everyday gardeners, I assure you, many of us still refer to daturas (and brugs) as Angel Trumpets. As can be evidenced by looking at any of the popular gardening forums on the net. http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&ie=UTF-8&rls=GGLD,GGLD:2005-10,GGLD:en&q=site%3aforums%2egardenweb%2ecom+angel+trumpet+datura

    Common names are not dictated by books and rules. Never have been and never will. They are dictated by what the “common” gardener calls the plant. I sense that you really want to convice me differently, but you will not. Common names have no place in acadamia. They only have a place in our hearts and gardens.

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  4. It was not my intention to convince you to change your habitual reference to genus ‘A’ or genus ‘B’. It was merely my intention to clarify my impressions relative to the matter of casual nomenclature.

    Please accept my apologies for having offended you.

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  5. Oh, no offense taken. Common names will ever be a point of contention, I suspect. ;)

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  6. I am overly obsessed with Datura and Brugmansia, not only for their incredible beauty but for their chemistry and the stories surrounding them.

    Great post, but I beleive you confused strychnine with scopolamine.

    On the subject of being nit-picky, Allan, the name D. meteloides was dropped long ago because of the confusion it caused with D. metel. Meteloides is a synonym for inoxia. I noticed you listed them both. :P

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  7. Where I had been functioning under the impressions created by:
    Chromosome End Arrangements in Datura inoxia, D. meteloides and D. metel
    Sophie Satina
    American Journal of Botany, Vol. 40, No. 8 (Oct., 1953), pp. 638-646
    doi:10.2307/2438453

    It does appear that, upon further inspection of the contemporary resources, D. inoxia and D. meteloides synonymous references to the same species–with D. inoxia surviving the namespace collision.

    Thanks for pointing that out to me. :D

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  8. Lisa on

    I will be planting one for the first time this weekend. I love the flower and hope I have much success with growing them. I have two very large pots at the entrance of my home and the flowers will go there. I am very excited.

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  9. look im all for weed,but this plant is really dangos!(FYI- every part of the plant is toxic!)not to say its the WORST dry moth you WILL ever have.
    i just got back from the hospial TODAY on septmber-5-2008
    i went in thusday night,the doctor said if i would have eatin one more flower off the plant (i olny had one flower and thats it)!, i would have died!this is not a joke,i thought it would never be me,my hart rate was 115,and all i was doing was siting down in the ER bed, i didnt know where i was,what i was doing, who i was,and i keep blackng out, i dont even rember any of this, i got told the next day what i did and said! i didnt even my own best freind, he was seting next to me he wasnt even on anyting,i had to get a CAT SCAN and a MRI,NOW, all i have left is a big bill that ill probly be geting in a copple of moths, the docotrs said your pupips would be big for at lest three days,after, but the effects wore off, didnt ware off until 4:00AM and i took it at 5:15pm in the afternoon.no it was NOT fun!

    ,so plese dont do it,dont make the same mistake i did.
    so before you gulp down that flower think to your self is it worth it?
    if you have ANY qistions plz concat me at my myspace

    http://www.myspace.com/eggrolls22

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  10. I do trumpets often unlike some other morons… I researched it first! you cant just walk into this shyt clueless or it will def freak you out! a lot of people thought they were about to die simply because they don’t know what to expect!!! knowleg is power!

    This is how it went down.
    me and a couple friends were walking down the street and we noticed some Jimsonweed at a local bar. I picked them and went home instead of continuing to our destination. I sliced the flower in half and split the seeds evenly, I then ingested Half the flower!

    Within twenty minutes I started tripping! much before I peaked I had already decided this shits way more intense than Acid!!! I looked at the phonebook on the kitchen counter and it seemed as though it was moving towards me and the counter the PB was sitting on was moving further away!

    Then from what my friends told me I striped my clothes off and walked over to our Dustbuster took the top off and started switching it on and off while staring into space.my legs felt like jello and it felt as though I could walk the world three times over again! I could only see far distance things cus my pupils were the size of saucers.

    I went to the bathroom to look at my pupils but I remember I ended up noticing all of my skin was neon red! I guess it was really hard on my body cus I got super tired super quick! I went to sleep! and, well just to worn you if your contemplating using this hallucinogen… Its really a sort of truth serum when you sleep! because my dreams were so realistic I started talking in my sleep I woke up and caught myself doing this every hour or so it was really freaky!

    apparently I answered every question my buddy’s AKA drug sitters asked me with shocking accuracy! apparently for a couple minutes while sleeping I opened my eyes and started petting my imaginary dog! LMAO Long story short, I woke up the next morning and didnt remember much! all I was able to recall that in which i just told you!

    one of the few likable things about trumpets… besides me feeling like god, There were very minimal side effects! and thats my testimony!

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  11. What is the species name of the Datura plant that is featured in the photo at the top of the post? I have grown this plant before from volunteers I found and would like to grow more, but I need to know the latinate name before I go buying seeds.

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  12. Keith on

    ~CJ~ Says:

    “I do trumpets often unlike some other morons…”

    Well that certainly is the pot calling the kettle black.
    My God, how stupid.

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  13. teri dosher on

    I really appreciated the discussion above, “is it angels trumpet or devils trumpet?”. I came across this page because i too have been trying to figure out the difference. I have a Datura and I sell its offspring at a local farmers market. I have always refered to it and all those that look like it as an angel trumpet, only to be corrected many times by others. Not wanting to be misleading to my customers I decided to do a little research today. Most of what I have found in my research says what you have both said, and that is while a datura is often refered to as an angels trumpet it is a not really but a devils trumpet or jimson weed. from what i can tell to be specific the angels trumpets (burgmansia) form more of a tree and the flowers point down, while the devils trumpet (datura) forms more of a bush and the flowers face up. I found all of this very interesting and will now know why i am often corrected for referring to it as an angels trumpet. thanks for the post.

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  14. June Mize on

    I want to add my testimony. My 32 year-old son died 5 days ago after ingesting Angel Trumpets. We buried him yesterday. He listened to people’s advice about the correct way to use them. There is no correct way to use them. Please do not try. Growers, please keep a close eye on your plants. People may sneak and pick them to use. The results can be deadly.
    Grieving Mom

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  15. Korina on

    My boyfriend was working next door to a house that had a huge plant. He came home that and that night had a horrible nightmare and woke up with a severe headache. could he have been exposed to the poison by the pollin being in the air?

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