ORRIN MORRIS: Jimson weed highly poisonous to humans, animals

JIMSONWEED Datura stramonium

JIMSONWEED Datura stramonium

Gossip is dangerous; however, when a person who carefully communicates what he or she actually knows, it can be helpful when discretely shared. Such care for accuracy reminds me of Proverbs 16:20, “He that handleth a matter wisely shall find good; and whoso trusteth in the Lord, happy is he.”

American artist Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986) is perhaps the most outstanding female artist of the 20th century in the U.S. As she developed her style, her artwork moved from imitating the masters to her own individualistic style.

Many of her paintings are enlargements of objects like bones, skulls, shells, rocks and flowers. A flower that was 3 inches wide in the garden would be the only object on a 30-by-40 inch canvas.

Georgia O’Keeffe, like many artists, had periods in her career when many canvasses were devoted to one object, for example iris, canna lily and this week’s wildflower.


Datura stramonium

Jimsonweed, a very poisonous plant, may grow as high as 5 feet tall. The stalks are quite sturdy and branch laterally as wide as the plant is tall. The stems may be green or purple. The deep green leaves are irregularly pointed with light green veins.

Every part of this plant is poisonous. The death of cows, horses and even children have been attributed to it.

Each blossom measures about 2 inches wide and 4 to 5 inches deep. The five-lobed trumpet-shaped structure, with points on each lobe, has a lavender colored throat. The bloom may be white or pale lavender and lasts only a short time.

Once the bloom falls off, an egg-shaped prickly seed pod develops. Thus from June into October the jimsonweed continues to bloom and form these very thorny pods until the pods are as numerous as the leaves.

This plant is native to North America and can be found in all the Canadian provinces bordering the United States. Its presence has been recorded in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands and in every state, including Hawaii, with the exception of Wyoming and Alaska.

Several authorities declare that the name is a corruption of the original Jamestown weed. These botanists refer to the diaries of Jamestown residents who noted this weed’s abundance in the uncleared areas around the ancient 1607 colony.

Jimsonweed has been know by three other names. The shape and appearance of the fruit inspired the name thornapple. The bloom and its poisonous nature resulted in the name devil’s trumpet. Finally, it has been called stinkweed because of the odor emitted, especially when the air is still and hot.

The detail and botanic accuracy of O’Keeffe’s paintings are amazing. Such care for accuracy reminds me of Proverbs 16:20, “He that handleth a matter wisely shall find good; and whoso trusteth in the Lord, happy is he.”

Orrin Morris is a retired Baptist minister, local artist and art teacher. This column is included in a two-volume set of books of wildflower columns he has published. To purchase the books, visit the Nature Seen Gallery & Frame Shop, 914 Center Street in Olde Town Conyers. Email him at odmsketchingpad@yahoo.com.