Datura

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Datura is a genus of nine species of vespertine flowering plants belonging to the family Solanaceae. 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 Daturas are now treated as belonging to the distinct genus Brugmansia[1] (Brugmansia differs from Datura in that it is woody, making shrubs or small trees, and in that it has pendulous flowers, rather than erect ones). Other related genera include Hyoscyamus and Atropa.

Contents

Description

Datura are herbaceous, leafy annuals and short-lived perennials which can reach up to 2 meters 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 the closely allied 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.[2]

The word datura comes from the Hindi dhatūrā ("thorn apple"); record of this name dates back to 1662 (OED). Nathaniel Hawthorne refers to one type in The Scarlet Letter as apple-Peru. In Mexico, its common name toloache.

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