Jimsonweed is one of those plants that are absolutely incredible to look at in my opinion. The whole plant is flashy, sharp and alluringly beautiful to behold. It is too bad it is highly poisonous.
Growing four to six feet in height is produces very dark rich green jagged spear shaped leaves. They grow on long stems that are tubular in shape and maroon to dark purplish red in color. Each leaf is deeply veined with the same color as the stems. The underside of the leaves are the same color as the tops. When looking at the mature plant you will see the stems are very stout and branch off the main stem of the same color and “Y” off to produce the many branching, heavily leaved plant.
One of the magnificent creations of Jimsonweed is its flowers of which it produces in abundance. They are long and trumpet shaped with beautiful, fanciful swirling tips at the ends of the 5 petals. The flowers emerge from a pale green papery sheath and the sheath remains during the short life of the flower. Most flowers do not last more than a day or two before withering. The plant compensates for the short lived delicate flowers by producing many successions between May and early October. Most of the flowers have a pale lavender to white coloration. Even the white petals usually contain brilliant streaks of dark purple inside. Each flower can grow between 3 and 5 inches in length!
The plant seems to enjoy opening its flowers during cooler times of the day, early or later in the evening. During the heat of the day most of the flowers are closed.
Jimsonweed is a annual, which means it only grows for one year and then dies. The plant seeds profusely from thorny oblong pods, which gave it another name of Thorn-Apple. Once the green pods dry and turn brown, they break open from the top and expose a four sectioned pocket filled with kidney bean shaped dark brown to black seeds. One pod may contain up to 100 seeds and the plant produces many, many pods!
The plant has 12 species and grows throughout Canada, the United States, the West Indies and throughout Asia where it is native to. Solanaceae, the nightshade family is the family it belongs to and since it grows in so many places it goes by many “local” names. From corn fields, pastureland, roadsides and wastelands, Jimsonweed grows strongly through wet or dry, cool or hot. It is a hardy plant with a high tolerance for environmental changes.
Even though this plant is amazingly beautiful and striking, every part of it is poisonous. Yes it has and still is used very carefully in clinical situations and can be found in asthma medications today. However, it is not to be messed with. I have heard in many areas of the world the youth are using it as a recreational and powerful hallucinogenic drug. Supposedly there have been many fatalities due to such use. Some of the chemicals in Jimsonweed are atropine, hyoscyamine, and scopolamine. Each of those chemicals interfere with acetylcholine, which is a chemical messenger in the brain and nerves
Gardeners and other folk have also been poisoned by the plant as they mistook it for some other plant that they were harvesting for food or medicine. I have read where some people who have handled the plant developed swollen eyelids… a rather interesting side-effect. Poisoning can take place through smoking it, ingesting it and even directly through the skin, especially mucus membranes. It is not a touchy-feely kind of plant!
I have one in my yard that seeded itself and has been growing all season. It is placed directly below some of the bird feeders so there must have been a stray seed in the birdseed that fell and planted. I have left it grow because even though it is toxic, it is quite a treat for the eye to look at. I included a small photo album for you all to look at.