by Roger Corzine
Datura wrightii is the scientific name for the plant in the picture but locally most of us know it as Moon Flower. I am guessing that the name, Moon Flower, was inspired by this plant’s large, white, moon-shaped flowers that are 4 to 6 inches in diameter that bloom at night and wilt and fade away not long after daylight.
Moonflower or Moon Flower is only one of many common names for this plant. Common names typically vary by locality and some of the names I found for this plant are: Jimson Weed (a contraction of Jamestown Weed), Devil’s Weed, Hell’s Bells, Thornapple, Devil’s Trumpet, Devil’s Snare, Witches Weed, Stinkweed, Prickly Burr, Devil’s Cucumber, Zombie Cucumber and a few others. Thornapple, Prickly Burr, Zombie or Devil’s Cucumber aptly describe the seed pod of these plants as these small, round pods are thickly covered with short, stiff spines that are prickly when green and much more stickery when dry.
All of the Moon Flower parts (leaves, stems, roots, flowers, seed pods and seeds) contain a variety of poisonous, hallucinatory and amnesiac chemicals such as Atropine and Scopolamine and others with seeds having the highest chemical concentration. Research indicates that Moon Flower is one of the most potent narcotic plants native to North America and apparently has killed many of those who have ingested it.
When eaten the drugs in the plant tissue may cause a variety of symptoms: dry mouth, dilated pupils, high temperature, blurred vision, confusion, delirium, hallucinations and rapid heartbeat. Dependent on the amount of material ingested, symptoms may occur within 30 to 60 minutes. Obviously medical attention should be sought immediately.
These plants belong to the Solanaceae or Nightshade family which also contains several of our common food plants; tomatoes, white potatoes, all varieties of peppers, eggplants and tomatillos. These food items that we eat contain such minute amounts of those harmful items that they are of no danger to us. One item I read indicated that a 200 pound man would have to eat about 200 pounds of potatoes to harm himself so I guess one baked potato is more dangerous to us for the butter, bacon bits and sour cream we put on it than the potato itself.