Datura – Top 10 Most Dangerous Fruits and Vegetables in the World

9. Datura


Datura is a genus of 9 species of vespertine flowering plants belonging to the family Solanaceae. They are known as angel’s trumpets, sometimes sharing that name with the closely related genus Brugmansia, and commonly as daturas. They are also sometimes called moonflowers, one of several plant species to be so. Its precise and natural distribution is uncertain, owing to its extensive cultivation and naturalization throughout the temperate and tropical regions of the globe. Its distribution within the Americas, however, is most likely restricted to the United States and Mexico, where the highest species diversity occurs.

Some South American plants formerly thought of as Datura are now treated as belonging to the distinct genus Brugmansia (Brugmansia differs from Datura in that it is woody, making shrubs or small trees, and it has pendulous flowers, rather than erect ones). Other related genera include Hyoscyamus and Atropa.

Datura species are herbaceous, leafy annuals and short-lived perennials which can reach up to 2 m in height. The leaves are alternate, 10–20 cm long and 5–18 cm broad, with a lobed or toothed margin. The flowers are erect or spreading (not pendulous like those of Brugmansia), trumpet-shaped, 5–20 cm long and 4–12 cm broad at the mouth; colors vary from white to yellow, pink, and pale purple. The fruit is a spiny capsule 4–10 cm long and 2–6 cm broad, splitting open when ripe to release the numerous seeds. The seeds disperse freely over pastures, fields and even wasteland locations.

Datura belongs to the classic “witches’ weeds”, along with deadly nightshade, henbane, and mandrake. Most parts of the plants contain toxic hallucinogens, and datura has a long history of use for causing delirious states and death. It was well known as an essential ingredient of love potions and witches’ brews. The word datura comes from the Hindi dhatura (“thorn apple”); record of this name dates back to 1662. Nathaniel Hawthorne refers to one type in The Scarlet Letter as apple-Peru. In Mexico, its common name is toloache. The larvae of some Lepidoptera (butterfly and moth) species, including Hypercompe indecisa, eat some Datura species.

It is difficult to classify Datura as to its species, and often happens the descriptions of new species are accepted prematurely. Later, these “new species” are found to be simply varieties that have evolved due to conditions at a specific location. They usually disappear in a few years. Contributing to the confusion are the various species, such as D. wrightii and D. inoxia, are very similar in appearance, and the variation within a species can be extreme. For example, Datura species can change size of plant, leaf, and flowers, all depending on location. The same species, when growing in a half-shady, damp location can develop into a flowering bush half as tall as a person, but when growing in a very dry location, will only grow into a thin little plant just higher than the ankles, with tiny flowers and a few miniature leaves

All Datura plants contain tropane alkaloids such as scopolamine, hyoscyamine, and atropine, primarily in their seeds and flowers. Because of the presence of these substances, Datura has been used for centuries in some cultures as a poison and as a hallucinogen. There can be a 5:1 toxin variation across plants, and a given plant’s toxicity depends on its age, where it is growing, and the local weather conditions. This variation makes Datura exceptionally hazardous as a drug.
In traditional cultures, a great deal of experience with and detailed knowledge of Datura was critical to minimize harm. Many tragic incidents result from modern recreational users ingesting Datura. For example, in the 1990s and 2000s, the United States media contained stories of adolescents and young adults dying or becoming seriously ill from intentionally ingesting Datura. There are also several reports in the medical literature of deaths from D. stramonium and D. ferox intoxication. Children are especially vulnerable to atropine poisoning, and their prognosis is likely to be fatal. In some parts of Europe and India, Datura has been a popular poison for suicide and murder. From 1950–1965, the State Chemical Laboratories in Agra, India, investigated 2,778 deaths caused by ingesting Datura.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported accidental poisoning resulting in hospitalization for a family of six who inadvertently ingested Datura used as an ingredient in stew. In some places, it is prohibited to buy, sell, or cultivate Datura plants.

Effects of ingestion

Due to the potent combination of anticholinergic substances it contains, Datura intoxication typically produces effects similar to that of an anticholinergic delirium (as contrasted to hallucination): a complete inability to differentiate reality from fantasy; hyperthermia; tachycardia; bizarre, and possibly violent behavior; and severe mydriasis with resultant painful photophobia that can last several days. Pronounced amnesia is another commonly reported effect.

No other psychoactive substance has received as many severely negative recreational experience reports as has Datura. The overwhelming majority of those who describe their use of Datura find their experiences extremely unpleasant both mentally and physically and often physically dangerous.


DaturaDue to their agitated behavior and confused mental state, victims of Datura poisoning are typically hospitalized. Stomach pumping and the administration of activated charcoal can be used to reduce the stomach’s absorption of the ingested material. The drug physostigmine is used to reverse the effect of the poisons. Benzodiazepines can be given to curb the patient’s agitation, and supportive care with oxygen, hydration, and symptomatic treatment is often provided. Observation of the patient is indicated until the symptoms resolve, usually from 24–36 hours after ingestion of the Datura.

The datura plant has been used for centuries for both its medicinal qualities and its mind-altering abilities, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Datura grows wild throughout most of the United States, but is also found in yards and gardens where it is cultivated for its lovely trumpet-shaped flowers. Ingestion of the flowers or any other part of this plant can have dangerous, even fatal, consequences.

All parts of the datura plant, also known as devil’s trumpet or Jimson Weed, are poisonous. The seeds and young leaves of the plant contain the highest amount of toxic alkaloids. All eight species of datura contain these toxic alkaloids. The alkaloid tropanes in datura — atropine, hyoscyamine, meteloidine and scopolamine — can cause physical symptoms within minutes. Pupil dilation and extreme thirst are usually the first symptoms, followed by hallucinations, elevated body temperature and increased heartbeat, or tachycardia. The hallucinations brought on by datura use differ from those caused by drugs such as LSD. A datura user is unable to distinguish between the hallucination and reality, a condition known as frank delirium. Ingestion of datura can result in convulsions and coma. Other side effects of datura use or ingestion include dry mucous membranes, problems with speaking or swallowing, inability to urinate and muscle weakness. The effects of datura can last up to 48 hours. In extreme cases, datura can cause respiratory arrest and death.

Because children, especially toddlers, tend to put things into their mouths, datura plants are especially dangerous to young children. Four grams of leaf material can prove fatal to a child, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Due to the plant’s toxicity, the Denver County Extension Master Gardener of Colorado State University suggests that datura should not be cultivated in areas that children frequent.

While livestock tend to avoid datura if they have other feed available, grazing animals may eat datura if it is growing in the field and they have limited healthy forage available. Datura is sometimes found in small quantities in hay and in feed silos so animals are eat the toxic weed in addition to their regular food. According to the Veterinary Medicine Library at the University of Illinois, some cattle deaths have occurred after ingestion of datura. Datura plants, if ingested, are also toxic to pets such as dogs and cats, so pet owners may want to reconsider growing these plants.


The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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