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Common Name: Downy Thorn Apple
Datura inoxia is an annual plant that can grow up to 1.00 metres tall.
It has edible and medicinal uses.
All members of this genus contain narcotics and are very poisonous, even in small doses[
South-western N. America.
Sandy or gravelly dry open places below 1200 metres in California[
Prefers a rich light sandy soil[
] and an open sunny position[
]. It is best grown in a fertile calcareous soil[
Plants are not very cold-hardy, tolerating temperatures down to about -5°c[
]. Plants can be grown outdoors as half-hardy annuals, starting the seed off in a greenhouse.
This species is extremely susceptible to the various viruses that afflict the potato family (Solanaceae), it can act as a centre of infection so should not be grown near potatoes or tomatoes[
This species is a commercial source of the alkaloid scopolamine, used in the pharmaceutical industry[
Fruit - ground up and mixed with clay[
] ( the clay probably has a neutralizing effect on the toxins). A very toxic plant, its use as a food cannot be recommended[
]. The fruit is up to 5cm long and 7cm wide[
A stupefying beverage is made from the leaves and roots[
All parts of the plant are anodyne, antispasmodic, hallucinogenic, hypnotic and narcotic[
]. It has been used in the past as a pain killer and also in the treatment of insanity, fevers with catarrh, diarrhoea and skin diseases[
]. The plant contains several alkaloids, the most active of which is scopolamine[
]. This is a potent cholinergic-blocking hallucinogen, which has been used to calm schizoid patients[
]. The leaves contain 0.52% scopolamine, the calices 1.08%, the stems 0.3%, the roots 0.39%, the fruits 0.77%, the capsules 0.33%, the seeds 0.44% and the whole plant 0.52 - 0.62%[
]. Any use of this plant should be with extreme caution and under the supervision of a qualified practitioner since the toxic dose is very close to the medicinal dose.
Sow the seed in individual pots in early spring in a greenhouse[
]. Put 3 or 4 seeds in each pot and thin if necessary to the best plant. The seed usually germinates in 3 - 6 weeks at 15°c. Plant out in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts.
Especially in areas with hot summers, it is worthwhile trying a sowing outdoors in situ in mid to late spring.