datura

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photo by Randy Tatroe

Seeds of Datura wrightii germinating after being sown March 4. They were soaked overnight in a solution of GA-3. I’ve read that this species was difficult to germinate without chemical assistance, so that’s what I did.

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Datura wrightii is the perennial datura native to the Southwest. That’s what I want. To say that the taxonomy of Datura is confused is an understatement. Weber, in Colorado Flora Western Slope says that D. wrightii is adventive; I wonder how people know this, since it was also listed in Rydberg’s Flora of Colorado in 1906, as D. meteloides. The latter is a synonym for D. inoxia, the annual found more or less throughout North America, introduced from Central or South America, and the one commonly found in the trade  (probably pictured above and below), though it is often confused with the perennial D. wrightii.

Datura wrightii, the native perennial, has stems covered with fine gray hairs; D. inoxia, the non-native, does not. Neither is the same as the Asian D. metel.

The name is interesting. (To me.) Supposedly, Linnaeus believed that Datura came from the Latin dare, to give, which I find excessively Eurocentric, considering that the Sanskrit word for the plant, dhattūra, is probably at least a thousand years older than any Latin word.

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Ṡiva naṭarāja with sacred datura in his hair.

The specific epithet happens to be one of my favorites, if I had a favorite specific epithet. I use it to fling in the face of people who think there is such a thing as “botanical Latin” and that this imaginary thing should be pronounced like it was some language other than English, and who try to correct my pronunciation of botanical names.  (The Oxford English Dictionary agrees with me, by the way.)

There can be no such word as “wrightii” in Latin. Latin does not have the letter W, nor does it have aphthongs, so there is no way to pronounce this word as though it were Latin, and not sound dumb. (Nor is there a way to pronounce it so that non-English speakers would understand it.) Right-ee-eye. Non-English speakers can struggle with this like we get to with Crocus cvijicii.

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photo by Randy Tatroe

To get on with it, the Jimson Weed is Datura stramonium, with erect seed capsules opening in four parts, native (at least to eastern North America), with different, toothed leaves, purple tints to the flowers, and not what I want.

Oh, I don’t really care. I want something perennial regardless of its name. I’ll know  if my plants aren’t perennial, of course, but only the passage of time will tell.

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8 Responses to datura

  1. Pam says:

    I used to see Datura growing along the banks of the Potomac, when I lived in the Virginia suburbs of DC. Seems the common name “Jimsonweed” comes from Jamestown, Virginia, where a bunch of British soldiers experienced altered reality from consuming a Datura salad.

  2. Desert Dweller says:

    Great background info I’ve never heard before on that genus!

    We have D. wrightii, D. inoxia, and D. quercifolia around ABQ, though the first is the most common. You know it’s spring – assuming enough rain – when they leaf out. Other plants leaf and flower well in advance of last frost, but not datura (or mesquite, desert willow…usually!).

  3. Knicky Twigs says:

    Right-ee-eye? Not right-ee-ee! Right-ee-o.

    • paridevita says:

      Yes. Saying “Right-ee-ee” is making the first syllable English (since no other language would pronounce that combination of letters in that way) and the last two “Latin”, which is just plain weird.

  4. Very educational, thanks.

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