My first encounter with datura was many years ago, when I saw this beautiful huge white flower in a garden very close to our building. I couldn't help myself - I watched the plant all summer, waiting for the seeds to ripen. At first, it was a small capsule, but then it got bigger and bigger, and in the end it became a huge round spiny pod, with very sharp thorns which I felt on my hand when trying to get it. I was lucky I didn't hurt myself, or I would have been seriously injured and maybe even poisoned by the substances datura contains, especially in the pod. I didn't know about this back then, and only my common sense or self-surviving instinct have saved me from ever getting injured by my datura plants. Or maybe they sensed how much I loved them, so they must have sent some vibes which made me unconsciously protect myself from their poison. Yes, you got that right, datura is not only invasive, but also poisonous.
Let me explain. After I had my trophy: a beautiful spiny pod, I took it home and placed it on a paper in my balcony. I didn't know what to think of it, nor did I know there were some seeds inside. It was almost as big as an apple, which probably was the reason for calling the plant the thorn-apple, in Hindi dialect. After only a few days the pod cracked open and I saw the seeds inside, similar to those of the pepper plant (Capsicum). They must have been a few hundred seeds in there! I took out the seeds and let them dry off, then saved all in an envelope until spring. I sowed a few seeds indoors and then I planted the seedlings in the garden. And that was when the new adventure has begun! Later I learned about the existence of nine more species of datura. Mine is Datura inoxia, from the Solanaceae family (same as potatoes, tomatoes and peppers). Datura is classified as a vespertine plant, meaning they bloom at sunset and the flowers are lasting until the next day, a little after sunrise.
All the datura plants grew very well that summer and made lots of prickly pods, which spread hundreds of seeds all over my garden. The next spring, hundreds of seedlings sprung up. It's true they wouldn't have if I hadn't watered the garden so thouroughly, but I'm glad I did. Thanks to the dozens of flowers blooming everyday from dusk to dawn, my garden was very much appreciated by anyone passing by. Since then, I've learned my lesson and never let so many datura pods to ripen. Now I pick all the seedpods from my garden, before their thorns are formed, if possible. The pods grow fast and I oftenly miss them among the datura's huge leaves. If that happens, I have to be very careful in grabbing them when are mature and the thorns can prick. I use scissors to cut back the pods and have gloves on my hands for protection.
Datura contains several substances called alkaloids which can be lethal if ingested. The alkaloids include scopolamine and atropine. The most dangerous is scopolamine which can induce hallucinogenic effects and even death if not used properly. The ancient Indian Shamans knew the secret of dosage and used datura for rituals in the old times. These might have given datura the name of the devil's trumpet. Scopolamine is now used in medicine as a sedative in convulsions, eclampsy, Parkinson's, insomnia and delirium tremens. Knowing all these, it might seem so unconscientious of me to grow so many daturas, but they are harmless if you use a modicum of protection when handling the pods. They are the most dangerous because their thorns can prick and get the poison into your blood, if the injury would be too deep.
I have many daturas in my garden. Haven't I told you? I sowed a dozen of datura seeds in the garden three years ago, on the first year when we've moved in, and all the seeds sprouted. My plan was to make a datura border edging, but I just forgot how big they can grow, especially when watered daily.
I had to trim them back, so they won't overwhadow my other plants. It was a struggle all last year, while trying to grow other plants, besides datura and keeping enough daturas to brighten my days. But the good news is that datura is a short-lived perennial plant, which only comes out again on the second year of growth, then dies. So, this year most of them won't come out again. I'll only have some seedlings from a few seeds fallen on the ground, from one or two pods which have escaped my hawk eye search when I collected the pods last summer.
I'm sorry for being so edgy regarding this issue, but believe me, you don't want to work twice as much for neglecting those pods from your datura! You can make it a bit less invasive as it is. Or, you can just forget to water your garden and they won't spring up - which of course, won't happen! If you still want to grow datura after all I have told you, my advice would be to just limit your daturas to one or two, so they can grow well and bushy and bloom a lot. Don't forget they need lots of space, at least about 10 square feet each, or you'll need to trim them back, which is another work. And try to cut back the pods right after the flowers are off, so you won't need to touch the prickly pods later.
Invasive and poisonous, yet beautiful and having healing properties, datura is a plant I would definately like to keep growing in my garden. But what about you?