Datura Diversity

October 23, 2008

Three species of Datura enliven summer roadsides in the Southwest. All are low, shrubby annuals that grow only on recently disturbed ground. They have tubular white and purple flowers, prickly seedpods, and leaves that are more or less triangular in shape.  Where I live, the three species are separated by preferred elevation, though there is some overlap.  D. wrightii is the largest and showiest, and tolerates a wide range of elevations from desert to oak woodland.  D. discolor prefers desert grassland, and D. quercifolia grows in grassland, chaparral, and oak woodland.  Of the three, D. discolor is the most similar to the Jimsonweed or Thornapple (D. stramonium), which is the only Datura that grows in most of the eastern U.S.


LEFT:  Datura quercifolia – Oak Leaf Datura:  Flowers 1″ in diameter with pale purple edges.  Deeply lobed leaves.  The oval pods have several very stout spikes of different lengths, and remain upright as they ripen.

CENTER:  Datura discolor – Two-Color Datura:  Flowers 2″ dia. with purple center.  Scalloped leaves.  Round or heart-shaped pods have sturdy spines that are all the same length; pods turn down as they ripen.

RIGHT:  Datura wrightii – Sacred Datura:  Flowers 3″ dia., may have purple edges.  Wavy or slightly lobed leaves.  Spherical pods have many tiny prickles that are all the same length; pods turn down as they ripen.


One Response to “Datura Diversity”

  1. I was impressed with your Datura characterizations of a genus usually misconstrued. I used your descriptor to unlock the meaning of the epithet D. discolor in a paper I submitted to Madrono. I revisited your site in a query for D. quercifolia, the only species of Datura I have not communed with in person. Ironically, I found you make color for painting. I have studied the colorants of art and used them in landscape painting. As an artist, I have researched paint pigments as a member of the American Institute for Conservation since 1989. Your work is an astonishing development, although it parallels mine, it is much more complete.

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