Datura Greets the Sun

datura greets the sun

This is what magic looks like. Datura seems like a simple flower, a common roadside weed, but it is so much more. It has many names but some people call it Sacred. All over the world people use it for surprising reasons: to be initiated into womanhood, to create zombies, to peer into future. Datura is also medicine; healing hurts both in the body and the mind.

I caught sight of this blossom early in the morning and it really did glow with something otherworldly: moonlight, starlight, life.

I have pictures where the camera looks at it directly. Some show it curled into a perfect mandala ready to unfurl. But I liked this one best. Here the solitary flower faces the morning sun just as it is about to rise over the housetops. In a few moments its magic will fade and the flower will wither. Because like all magical things, it cannot bear being exposed to the light of day.

Just as its magical use takes people to the edge to explore all kinds of boundaries, the plant itself lives on the edges of the world: places like roadsides or anywhere the soil is disturbed or defeated. Datura likes it hot and dry but share a little extra water and it will flourish. Too much love and it will rot. It has several known associates. Most are not photogenic enough for the tastes of bloggers: Trichobaris weevils, the three-lined potato beetle,  tortoise beetles. But the caterpillars of the gorgeous giant leopard moth also eat the leaves. I really like the idea of that large white moth visiting this flower in the moonlight. I want to see that someday.

This is a flower that collects legends and myths. Did you know that the only visitors from the stars you can trust are the ones bearing datura flowers?

Another tells of boys wandering late at night under the stars seeking the flower to learn the language of the winds.

I love a pretty story but this next one is the one I think I will remember.

Some say the desert is a punishment for our misdeeds. When people behave badly the creator blasts the soil into a fine sifting dust and turns away. Everywhere, for as far as you can see, the water withdraws and the desert is born. Where there once was life, the empty places fill with despair. That was how datura first came into the world. Late one night, unseen, a being of water brought forth from the wasteland a small but bright mercy. But, that was not the end of the story. Because some things cannot be forgiven. Discovering the flower standing upright in the heat and dust, the creator cursed it causing all parts of it to become forever toxic.

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26 thoughts on “Datura Greets the Sun

    1. I knew a bit about the North American legends but when I found out that it grows everywhere I had some fun seeing if I could collect something new. I wish I had bookmarked them.

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  1. You do weave a great post… Interesting comments too… I would love to see any night blooming flowers and I don’t know if there are any natives my way that do that… hmm…something to look up..Michelle

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    1. Oh. I think there must be a few where you live. I have a couple of ideas. Not native to your area probably but native to the continent are flowering tobaccos. Next year I want to hunt down Nicotiana repanda seeds. The mock oranges (Philadelphus) are native. My white coloured native clematis shines brightly at night. The white Dicentra canadensis would also shine out at night. Now you’ve got me thinking ….

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    1. Thanks! And yeah, you are right to point out that it can be dangerous. I was just thinking this morning that I ought to have added some kind of warning label … heh

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  2. I am not sure but I thought datura is also known as the angel’s trumpet? It has the most intoxicating scent, mostly at dush …and is toxic too.I had one in our house last year because it didn’t start blooming until fall and it got too cold outside so I brought the plant inside (although it’s starting to be too big for that)…and it thanked me with several more blossoms and bloomed wonderfully. However, whenever I stayed in that small room for too long, I started getting a headache. But what a sweet smell and beautiful flower. Is that the same datura you’re talking about? They grow on the roadside in Texas? Amazing!

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    1. Brugmansias are sometimes called angel’s trumpets. The plants are usually a lot taller and the ‘trumpets’ (flowers) hang down (like from heaven). They normally come from tropical places. Datura flowers face up. And they grow in hot but dry places all over the world: Asia, Africa, India, Mexico and the US. Brugmansia and datura are closely related plants. My son gave me a brugmansia last year. I put it on the patio and when it flowers the scent is really lovely but also really intense. I definitely can imagine someone getting a headache if it was kept in an enclosed space! It is a favourite of mine.

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  3. Someone told it me it promotes dreams if you put the flower under your pillow at night. I have a healthy respect for daturas. . One type fares importantly in Carlos Casteneda’s first book “The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge”. I couldn’t believe it when I realized daturas could be found thriving in my neighborhood.

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    1. I had forgotten about Castenada! Thanks for that reminder. I was surprised too when I saw a big stand of them growing in my neighbourhood. I thought of them as kind of exotic things (being from Canada where they are pretty rare). I couldn’t resist collecting some seeds. They are super easy to grow, btw.

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  4. What a lovely shot- you chose well. I’m so happy you included the myths. That last one feels like it draws on some deep truth to me. I’ve been in love with Datura before I even knew correctly what it was called (sort of a lifelong trend was set up there and I just now realized that…). Seeing those flowers painted so idiosyncratically by Georgia O’Keefe, I was drawn in by them without ever having seen one in the real world.

    And honestly, I don’t think they exist entirely, only in the “real” world. As you point out, they are magical, offering both reward and punishment depending on what you come to them for.

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    1. That last myth came from a crazy tumble-jumble google translation of a story from China. I probably got it all wrong but the first sentence: that deserts are a punishment just rang out loud and clear. I also love Georgia O’Keefe’s visions of the world. When I discovered her work I just had to go on a roadtrip through the American South back when I was studying at the University. Less can be so much more.

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  5. I wonder if the creator is especially pissed at us right now? The datura is quite something isn’t it? Calling it a “white” flower does it no justice and though simple, it is not. I’ve loved viewing mine this summer. I planted it about a year ago, after much angst in figuring out a place for one. It isn’t even easy to see. It’s at the end of the path where the bee hives are, mostly hidden behind a huge turk’s cap stand with floppy branches. But it’s always worth the trip to see it. And yours was worth the viewing too.

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    1. Yes! We need a new word for what that flower does with light. White comes close but it doesn’t convey the luminosity. I grew mine mostly on a whim but I am so glad I did. This is truly a plant that should be included in more gardens — though I do understand how that is easy to say since I am between children at this time.

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    1. They grow all over the US but are rare in Canada. I -think- I saw some in the badlands in Alberta many years ago but I am willing to bet even those were introduced by someone.

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    1. Thanks, Eliza. I really like the boys learning the language of the winds. For some reason it makes me think of the Bronte sisters sneaking out at night to test their wings.

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