Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Datura Stramonium

Well, it's July and it had to come to this eventually ...the arrival of the not-so-valued weed status Datura stramonium. It's a lovely one, isn't it? Oh yes, they're gorgeous, proliferous bloomers and they thrive just about anywhere they can get full sun ... the cracks of the sidewalk (where this one is), in the grass ... why just about anywhere! No matter how many hundreds I pull, they always sneak through somewhere else ... yes, you will want to (vainly) try to eradicate it, but I'm afraid once "blessed" (to my mind cursed!) with this plant, you'll have it for quite some time!

Of course there's a story behind how its status in the garden got to this point ... so here goes. We've grown Datura meteloides (aka inoxia) (commonly known as Moonflower) for years, a few large specimens here and there, usually along the Woodland Walk. And though they too can quickly take over if its pods aren't snipped before maturity, we've managed to keep them more or less under control with selective thinning of the seedlings. To my mind, this is the only Datura species to grow, with its large creamy white trumpets and quite pleasant fragrance, despite its rather furry and stinky leaves ... they often grow from 4-5 feet, (though we've had a few that have topped out at 6 foot shrub status). A pretty, manageable, potential weed, but well worth growing.

And then, there's its cousin Stramonium, the truly wild child of the family ... aggressive, tenacious, and truly noxious, in the pure sense that it's a really stinky plant. Just pulling a few of these or getting close to the leaves will prove this point in short order. If you like it (and it can be really pretty), you just have to be prepared to be perpetually ruthless (even then you'll fail, ha!) with trying to keep it under control. On the other hand, the fragrance of Stramonium is even nicer than that of Meteloides, so there is a small upside to having it around ....

You're probably asking yourself right about now,
So where's the story? It's actually quite mundane, but does play a historical role in the establishment of the front corner boulder bed. When we were first building it, and doing the endless fill of the area, we were offered a load of fill dirt by someone in the neighborhood who was digging up part of their yard. Of course we accepted immediately and got a couple of loads of the dirt. Well it just about did the trick for that area, so we were happy not to have to make yet another trip to Lowes for 40 pound bags of topsoil.

After we got the bed pretty much filled in, we set to work putting in some of the perennials, and a lot of annuals for its first year (we were doing this mostly in late May through July, 2003). Of course we had the usual weeds coming up from donated dirt, but we worked hard to keep them down. One day, however, we saw something coming up, the likes of which was definitely not your garden variety weed. Since we were used to growing Daturas already, and though Stramonium has a different leaf structure, we quickly identified it as some sort of Datura. It actually was in a good place to work as a specimen plant, so we decided to see what this one was like, and let it go.

Well it grew quite well. And grew some more ... and for a while we wondered if we had stumbled on to some descendant of Jack's magic beans! Well, I'll readily admit to the cheesy hyperbole there, and will just say that it grew to about 7 feet tall and about 4 feet broad ... in effect, it was a small tree! We got a lot of whoa, what's that? comments that summer and quite enjoyed having it there, because it attracted Sphinx moths and sometimes hummingbirds.

Then the attack of the pods began ... You see, each flower produces a spiny seed pod or "thorn apple" that probably contains several hundred seeds. Add this to the fact that over an average season, a happy Stramonium will easily produce hundreds, (if not upwards of a thousand like our monster did most surely!) seed pods. We're talking pure exponential math here. We're talking instant weed status! I think we did try to keep up with snipping the immature pods, but with any Datura that's an inevitably futile proposition to keep any of them from maturing and bursting. At the point you see the pods, you know you'll have Daturas for a long time to come. Witness, if you will, our humble experience with them ... there might be a gardening lesson in there. Pretty yes, but at what cost?

At this point we know we're not likely to get rid of Stramonium in the short run, but we do let a few of the smaller ones go until they've bloomed a bit and then pull them. So, they're always around until IVG goes on a rampage pulling them ... and then gives up in exhaustion.

I'll close with this interesting factoid from the Wikipedia link cited above:
Jimson weed grows in most habitats, but thrives in high-nutrient soil. It is found throughout much of the United States, barring the West, Northwest and the northern Great Plains. It is most commonly found in the South. Datura stramonium is also found throughout many other parts of the world. Goats will occasionally eat jimsonweed, and subsequently die a slow and painful death. In California and other western states, Datura wrightii is found, not Datura stramonium.


FARfetched said...

Wow, that *is* pretty! Kind of like the wild violets here: give them a square foot, they'll take an acre.

Now that i have a minute to catch a breath, I'll work my way down & catch up....

Nancy P said...

Good grief, I had no idea! The Attack of the Moon Flowers! My neighbor has one planted about five yards away from any of our gardens. I hope that's far enough. :) But, oh, its flower smells divine.

Man Eegee said...

I'll make sure to keep any and all goats away from your garden ;)

Stating the obvious, I'm sure, but it looks like a floral pinwheel

olivia said...

LOL IVG! Your story made me laugh out loud in my cube ... :D

Yes, they are beautiful flowers! That purple bit is lovely. And they do smell so good -- minus the stinky leaves and stems.

They grow everywhere except for olivia's garden ... Although the plants I transplanted which flowered are developing those seed pods nicely ... :)

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hi everyone!
Glad to see you back in blogtopia FAR! I stopped by your place earlier but quickly realized I'm going to have go back to absorb all the vacation stories and pics.

LOL Nancy... just keep an eye on those pods, because when they start drying up they can pop at any time. If this is the first time growing them for your neighbor, you might want to tip them off about the pods, hehe. If they don't know, you'd be doing everyone a favor... or you could go all Carolyn Burnham and go out in your gardening clogs and matching gloves and shears and snip the green ones before they mature... /end evil IVG

Thanks Manny, as much as we'd like to have some goats around here, ain't gonna happen! And the only cabrones around here are of the two-legged variety! Does that let us off the hook from the Chupacabra?

Olivia ... remember what I've been telling you about the pods, lol. And thx for that old link from ages ago ... knew that would come in handy sometime!

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