Datura wrightii, also called Sacred Datura or Western Jimsonweed is a poisonous perennial flower native to the Southwestern U.S. and Mexico. It is sometimes referred to as datura meteloides. But the name meteloides also refers to datura inoxia. In recent years, datura and the related brugmansia varieties have grown in popularity for their large and prolific blooms. The flowers of datura wrightii are a heavenly white and strongly resemble those of moonflower (ipomoea alba). These plants are also abundant seed producers and will usually reseed themselves the following year if the seed pods and plants are left in the ground to dry out at the end of the season.
Many datura varieties have been used by various medicine men throughout the world as a divination tool. They have also been used in witchcraft to create so-called flying ointments and were once used in cosmetics. Datura Wrightii was used by the by the Tongva and Chumash tribes. The Chumash, who lived in coastal California believed that datura embodied the goddess, Momoy. They used the bathwater (tea) of “momoy” as a rite of passage to build resistance to fear, strengthen character, diagnose illness and predict the future.
There are various medicinal uses for the plant, although its extreme toxicity generally outweighs any of these benefits for it to be used practically by herbalists. Still, both atropine and scopolamine, two alkaloids present in the plant, are sometimes used in isolated form by doctors. Among the various uses of these chemicals, both cause pupil dilation and eye muscle paralysis for optometric procedures. Scopolamine is also sometimes used for the reduction of motion sickness. There are numerous reports of people suffering from madness from accidental datura ingestion. The most notable was a case in which settlers in Jamestown mistakenly used it in cooking, causing much of the town to run mad. It is from this instance that datura was given the nickname, Jimson Weed. Although the name most directly applies to Datura Stramonium, it is often used in reference to other datura varieties as well.
Many species of datura contain germination inhibitors in the seeds as a mechanism to stagger germination in the wild, which increases the overall survival of the species. The seeds have been treated with GA-3 (gibberellic acid) to counteract the effects of these inhibitors and provide a quicker more even germination. Otherwise, seeds can be soaked prior to planting. Datura seeds should be planted just below the surface of the soil (about 1/8”). They can be direct sown or transplanted after the seedlings have developed their first set of true leaves. Plants will grow in almost any soil type. Although, a well-draining, nutrient-rich soil such as a mix of sand and compost will produce drastically better results with taller, wider plants that have bigger blooms and more pods. For best results, situate plants in full sun to nearly full sun.