Moonflower, aka Sacred Datura


Spectacular trumpet-shaped blossoms open at sunset, and wilt after dawn.

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(Datura wrightii) Spectacular trumpet-shaped blossoms open at sunset, and wilt after dawn. The flowers give off a sweet, narcotic odor, but the leaves smell rank. Native to the US American Southwest. Drought-tolerant. Attracts night-pollinators such as Sphinx moths.

All parts of the plant, including the nectar, contain alkaloids responsible for its notorious mind-altering effects. These alkaloids can be deadly and since their concentration varies from plant to plant, estimating an effective but non-lethal dosage is problematic. Consumption is not recommended without the guidance of a knowledgeable person.

Sacred Datura was used by many Native American tribes, whose cultural connection with the natural world in general and knowledge of this plant in particular allowed them to explore its properties extensively and, most importantly, safely. According to ethnobotanist Daniel Moerman, it is the “most universally used hallucinogenic and medicinal plant known to humans.”

Regarding ceremonial use and the Cahuilla, Moerman had this to say: “Datura offered the shaman not only a means to transcend reality and come into contact with specific guardian spirits,it also enabled him to go on magical flights to other worlds or transform himself into other life forms such as the mountain lion or eagle. such magical flights were a necessary and routine activity for Cahuilla shaman. A shaman might use the drug to visit the land of the dead, returning to the profane world with information useful to his people, or he might pursue a falling star to recapture a lost soul and return it to its owner.”

Indigenous people used the plant for many other purposes as well For Moerman’s list of all uses, see here.

Planting suggestions: Datura is a summer plant in the Nightshade family, so one can treat it like Tomatoes, Peppers, Eggplants or Tobacco. Direct-sow when soil has warmed, or start in flats. Not picky about soil, but will really thrive with nitrogen. If you want to be really goth about it, plant on top of an animal corpse.

At least 25 seeds per packet