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Rymers, J - Jimsonweed

Page history last edited by PBworks 12 years, 6 months ago

    • Jimsonweed

Datura stramonium L


[jimsonweed.jpg] http://www.oklahomapoison.org/prevention/PoisonousPlants.asp

A mature Datura stramonium L plant.


Datura stramonium is an annual herbaceous dicot of the Solanaceae family. It is widely distributed across temperate and tropical regions throughout the planet, and is thought to have originated in either South Asia or Central America. It is common throughout the United States and most of Canada as well as Central and parts of South America.


The plant itself can grow up to five feet tall, and had a green to purple stem. The large flowers are often white but some have hues of purple. The leaves are roughly heart shaped and have smooth edges.


[0560.jpeg] http://calphotos.berkeley.edu/cgi/img_query?query_src=photos_index&enlarge=0000+0000+1104+0560

Jimsonweed flower.


As an annual, the plant runs its entire life course and reproduces in the course of one year. The seeds are pitted on the surface, as shown in the photograph. In different areas of the world where the plant is found, germination can occur at different times throughout the year.


[Datstp2.jpg] http://www.ppws.vt.edu/scott/weed_id/datst.htm

Jimsonweed fruit.


All parts of the jimsonweed plan are poisonous, and have a foul odor if crushed or scraped. It is an extremely powerful hallucinogen due to chemicals called tropane alkaloids, namely atropine. Humans have a long history of use of the plant as a medicine and hallucinogenic, from Europe to Central America and also in India. It has been used to induce visions by soothsayers and was used by colonists at Jamestown colony in the seventeenth century to poison British soldiers, who were rendered unserviceable for three days due to the hallucinogenic effects of the drug.

As a medicine, jimsonweed has been used to treat various mental illnesses including madness, although it appears to do more harm than good in that regard, particularly since lethal doses of the plant are very close to affective doses.


North American distribution map



The plant is native throughout North America, Central America, and parts of South America, and may also have originated in India, where it is also counted as native.

Term Paper**



There is no doubt that Jimsonweed covers a wide range of habitats. The species Datura stramonium is thought to be native to India, originating in the biomes considered by the WWF to be Tropical and Subtropical Moist Broadleaf and Coniferous forests. Another hypothesis is that Datura stramonium is native to Central America, in the Xeric Shrub-land biome. Jimsonweed has long been found throughout Europe and America. It is also hypothesized that the plant could possibly have originated in a very similar form in two places, Central Asia and Central America. European settlers found the plant growing in the Temperate Broadleaf and Mixed Forests and the Temperate Coniferous Forests of the Virginia colony. Jimsonweed had been in use as a pain relieving medicine by native peoples of the Americas and has a long history of use for psychedelic purposes in India and central America.


In addition to all of the biomes mentioned, Datura stramonium is commonly found throughout most other temperate, tropical, and subtropical biomes throughout the entire world, including Temperate Grasslands, Tropical and Subtropical Grasslands, Temperate Coniferous Forests, Tropical and Subtropical Dry Broadleaf Forests, Mediterranean Forests, Woodlands, and Shrub-lands, and though much less common, even in some areas that are considered a part of the Boreal Forests biome, particularly in Northern Quebec, Canada.


With such an amazingly wide range, we can conclude that Datura stramonium is indeed a very versatile plant that is capable of growing in numerous climatic conditions. The plant itself is entirely herbaceous, and usually doesn't grow to over five feet in height annually. It is highly capable of growing in disturbed soil conditions, and is quite common along roadsides and on wooded paths throughout the United States and its entire range. Since it will usually never grow taller than the trees surrounding it, Jimsonweed is particularly likely to be found in these forest-edge habitats. However, the plant can be found in sunny spots on forest floors or simply growing on its own in the open. With such a tenacious growth nature, it is no wonder why the plant is considered a weed. Though the plant is an efficient grower, there is no doubt that it's widespread range owes partly to human activity. The plant, while having originated either in India or Central America, was imported to Europe, probably for medicinal (used in treating asthma) or hallucinogenic use, and from there spread abroad to European colonies.


Since it is capable of surviving in such varied climates, there is no immediate threat to the habitat of Jimsonweed. In fact, since the plant originated in tropical biomes, it is entirely likely that as our global climate increases due to greenhouse gasses, the plant will spread and become much more common as temperate and boreal habitats shrink and tropical and subtropical regions grow. If Jimsonweed ever becomes a real problem, we can consider it a testament to the awesome affect that human activity has on the climate and therefore the plant life on our planet. As it stands currently, Jimsonweed is not considered an invasive plant in any region of the United States or Canada. Forms of Datura have been present in the Americas since before the arrival of settlers, and it is likely that Datura Stramonium, whether having originated in India, Central America, or both, is more or less native to all the ecosystems it is currently present in.


The issue with Jimsonweed, then, is not how to protect the habitat of the plant. As is apparent from its wide range, there is no shortage of habitat for the plant. There may, however, be problems with an overpopulation of jimsonweed as global climates increase. Although the plant is not considered an invasive anywhere (its reproductive habits are not aggressive enough), it is highly poisonous and very dangerous to humans and animals if ingested. As previously stated, like most weeds, Jimsonweed is highly adaptive to disturbed soil and forest-edge habitats. As development increases, so does the amount of disturbed soil and the ratio of forest-edge habitat to forest-interior. On both a macro and micro level, humans are increasing habitats and opportunities for Jimsonweed (and similar "unwanted plants") to flourish: tropical biomes are widening, forest edge and disturbed habitats are increasing. If Jimsonweed is not a nuisance now, it could certainly become one in the future, and this is without considering its noxious properties.


However, I do not believe that there is any real threat for Jimsonweed to become an invasive. In almost all of the habitats it is found, the plant is a stable, almost background-plant in its ecosystem. Aside from the possibility of a dog dying from eating the weed or some curious teens ingesting the plant to induce hallucinations, we can bank on Jimsonweed remaining a friendly weed and not overrunning its ecosystems.




Jimsonweed, Datura stramonium L Internet. University of Florida: IFAS Extension; cited 2008 Feb 19. Available from: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/FW016



Jimsonweed Internet. cited 2008 Feb 19. Available from: http://www.holoweb.com/cannon/jimsonwe.htm



PLANTS Profile for Datura stramonium (jimsonweed) Internet. United States Department of Agriculture: Natural Resources Conservation Service; cited 2008 Feb 19. Available from: http://plants.usda.gov/java/nameSearch?keywordquery=datura+stramonium&mode=sciname&submit.x=0&submit.y=0



Conservation Science, Biomes and Biogeographical Realms Internet. World Wildlife Fund; cited 2008, March 4. Available from: http://www.worldwildlife.org/science/ecoregions/biomes.cfm

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