Datura stramonium var. inermis, Photo: Michael Lahanas
Datura stramonium L., 1753
* Carolus Linneaus Species Plantarum 1:179. 1753
Datura stramonium var. stramonium (*)
Datura stramonium, known by the common names jimson weed, devil's trumpet, devil's weed, thorn apple, tolguacha, Jamestown weed, stinkweed, locoweed, datura, pricklyburr, devil's cucumber, hell's bells, moonflower and, in South Africa, malpitte and mad seeds, is a common weed in the Solanaceae (nightshade) family.
It is an erect annual herb forming a bush up to 3–5 ft (1–1.5 m) tall. The leaves are soft, irregularly undulate, and toothed. The fragrant flowers are trumpet-shaped, white to creamy or violet, and 2.5 to 3.5 in. long. They rarely open completely. The egg-shaped seed capsule is walnut-sized and either covered with spines or bald. At maturity it splits into four chambers, each with dozens of small black seeds.
Parts of the plant, especially the seeds and leaves, are sometimes used as a hallucinogen. Due to the elevated risk of overdose in uninformed users, many hospitalizations, and some deaths, are reported from this use.
The genus name is derived from dhatura, an ancient Hindu word for a plant. Stramonium is originally from Greek, strychnos στρύχνος "nightshade" and maniakos μανιακός "mad".
The native range of Datura stramonium is unclear. It was scientifically described and named by Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus in 1753, although it was earlier described by many herbalists such as Nicholas Culpeper. Today, it grows wild in all the world's warm and moderate regions, where it is found along roadsides and in dung heaps. In Europe, it is found as a weed on wastelands and in garbage dumps.
The seed is thought to be carried by birds and spread in their droppings. It can lie dormant underground for years and germinate when the soil is disturbed. People who discover it growing in their gardens, and are worried about its toxicity, have been advised to dig it up or have it otherwise removed.
All parts of Datura plants contain dangerous levels of poison and may be fatal if ingested by humans or animals, including livestock and pets. In some places it is prohibited to buy, sell or cultivate Datura plants.
The active ingredients are the Tropane alkaloids atropine, hyoscyamine and scopolamine which are classified as deliriants, or anticholinergics. Due to the elevated risk of overdose in uninformed users, many hospitalizations, and some deaths, are reported from recreational use.
Datura intoxication typically produces a complete inability to differentiate reality from fantasy (delirium, as contrasted to hallucination); 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. The antidote of choice for overdose or poisoning is physostigmine. 
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported accidental poisoning resulting in hospitalization for a family of six who inadvertently ingested Jimsonweed used as an ingredient in stew.
Datura stramonium was used as a mystical sacrament in both possible places of origin, North America and South Asia. In Hinduism, Lord Shiva was known to smoke Datura. People still provide the small green fruit of Datura during festivals and special days as offerings in Shiva temples. Although lay devotees smoke marijuana as a devotional practice during religious festivals like Shivaratri (the Night of Shiva), they do not smoke Datura, whose effects can be unpredictable and sometimes fatal.
Aboriginal Americans in North America, such as the Algonquin and Luiseño have used this plant in sacred ceremonies.
In the United States the plant is called jimson weed, or more rarely Jamestown weed; it got this name from the town of Jamestown, Virginia, where British soldiers were drugged with it while attempting to suppress Bacon's Rebellion. They spent eleven days generally appearing to have gone insane:
The James-Town Weed (which resembles the Thorny Apple of Peru, and I take to be the plant so call'd) is supposed to be one of the greatest coolers in the world. This being an early plant, was gather'd very young for a boil'd salad, by some of the soldiers sent thither to quell the rebellion of Bacon (1676); and some of them ate plentifully of it, the effect of which was a very pleasant comedy, for they turned natural fools upon it for several days: one would blow up a feather in the air; another would dart straws at it with much fury; and another, stark naked, was sitting up in a corner like a monkey, grinning and making mows [grimaces] at them; a fourth would fondly kiss and paw his companions, and sneer in their faces with a countenance more antic than any in a Dutch droll.
In this frantic condition they were confined, lest they should, in their folly, destroy themselves — though it was observed that all their actions were full of innocence and good nature. Indeed, they were not very cleanly; for they would have wallowed in their own excrements, if they had not been prevented. A thousand such simple tricks they played, and after eleven days returned themselves again, not remembering anything that had passed. – The History and Present State of Virginia, 1705
The plant achieved some notoriety in the U.K. during the silly season of 2009 when stories in news media identified a specimen found growing in a Suffolk garden with Devil's Snare, an entirely fictional plant from J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. 
1. ^ a b "Datura stramonium information from NPGS/GRIN". http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/html/taxon.pl?13323. Retrieved 2008-02-05.
1. Richard H. Uva, Joseph C. Neal and Joseph M. Ditomaso, Weeds of The Northeast, (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1997), pp. 312–313.
This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (Eleventh ed.). Cambridge University Press.
Source: Wikipedia, Wikispecies: All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License