Pollinated flowers develop golf ball-sized seed pods studded with wickedly sharp spines, lending yet another common name, thorn apple. Mature seed lies within dry pods where it’s easy to gather from local plants for planting in home gardens. Daturas grow easily from seed sown directly into garden soil on mounds, in rock gardens, on slopes and drainage ditches. This demonstrates a preference for lean, fast-draining ground. It’s also one of the few plants that share the same water and soil demands as succulents and cactus so it’s a valuable accent there.
Datura is often confused with the tropical South American brugmansia hybrids, which are visually similar and bear the same common name, angel’s trumpet. The chief difference between them for identification is orientation of the flower. Brugmansias hang downward, while datura remains forever upright and open to her pollinating moths.
The most useful of the hybrids to gardeners in ordinary climates is the exotic double purple datura with its shiny black stems. This is a tall, black stem fast-growing seasonal plant that is perennial in the tropics but typically sown from seed as an annual elsewhere. This is an outstanding plant for modern and exotic settings that won’t demand a boat load of water. Many general seed catalogs carry this variety with some websites devoted exclusively to its diversity.
The Southwestern species Datura inoxia is a true native species used by many tribes for ritual and medicine and the most drought-tolerant. Its ethnobotanical use in divination was detailed in a ’60s classic read, “The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge.” Take note of where they choose to grow close to your home, then mark your calendar to return summer’s end to gather seeds.
Maureen Gilmer is an author, horticulturist and landscape designer. Learn more at www.MoPlants.com