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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 is harvested from the wild for local use as a food and medicine
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.