Sacred Datura (Datura wrightii)

Map of Arizona. Counties are colored green where the species may be found.
Datura wrightii range map. USDA PLANTS Database.

Datura flower.
Datura flower. Photo by L. Falk.

Datura plant with open flowers, flower buds, and closed flowers.
Datura plant with open flowers, flower buds, and closed flowers. Photo by L. Falk.

Datura is a very showy plant, although it is considered a weedy species found growing in disturbed areas. It has very large, white (sometimes tinged purple), funnel-shaped flowers that bloom in the late afternoon and evening, and close in the morning.

Datura flowers are fragrant and are pollinated at night by hawkmoths. Pull up a chair next to a population of Datura and watch the hawkmoths visit the plants at night. The moths hover like hummingbirds and unfurl a very long proboscis into the floral tube to get the nectar.

Sacred datura is found alongside roads, ditches, and sandy washes from 1,000 to 6,000 feet in elevation. The leaves are large, dark green grayish, and velvety. They can cause dermatitis to those with sensitive skin. The flowers are 6 to 7 inches long and 5 inches wide. The fruit is a greenish capsule covered with spines.

All parts of this plant are poisonous, containing toxic alkaloids. Livestock and people have been fatally poisoned by ingesting the plant and seeds.

For More Information