Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Plant ID: Datura sp.

I recently found this plant growing on the front of my friend's home, very close to the shrubbery. Can you help with its identification? It seems to have sprung up from out of nowhere and is growing quite rapidly. Neither my friend nor I certainly didn't plant it. A neighbor a few homes down has a small island of these growing in front of his shrubs, as well. The location is Peekskill, NY (Westchester County). The first picture taken shows the leaf of a newly-growing plant. This plant is about 1.5 feet in height, and leaf itself is approximately 8" long. The second picture shows one of the flowers that bloom on the plant. The flowers are white or cream in color, and approximately 6" long. The third picture shows, well, I'm not quite certain what one would call them except spiked balls. They're approximately 1.5"-2.0" in diameter and are found throughout the plant on its stalk.
The plant you are trying to identify is a kind of Datura. If I had to guess as to the species I would say that you have Datura inoxia, commonly called angel’s trumpet or downy thorn apple. Native to the much warmer climate of Central America, Daturas are considered to be annuals up here in the northeast. As you have observed they do grow very quickly during our hot summer months. I was walking around my own neighborhood of Astoria, Queens, over the weekend and had seen a few which had obviously seeded themselves around. The prickly growth, or “thorny apple”, is their seed heads and removing them helps prevent the plant from spreading and sowing its own seeds. Even though the plants can get to 3’ or 4’ tall, I would not expect the plants or seeds to survive the winter up where you are located. I would certainly guess that the one in your yard came from your neighbors stand of them. Daturas are known to be quite toxic, and if ingested they can lead to long horrible spells of hallucinations, but the plant will not harm you if you simply want to remove it. If you need any further information, do not hesitate to call.

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