22 September 2010

Duh…That's A Datura

Two years ago, a friend was proud and excited about her "Angel Trumpet" (Datura metel) blooming with a heavenly fragrance at night. My research indicates a nickname as Devil's Trumpet. It is known for containing toxic hallucinogens, and has a long history of use for causing delirious states and death. It was well known as an essential ingredient of love potions and witches' brews.

I read that Datura has the interesting property of being able to change size of plant, size of leaf, and size of flowers, all depending on location. The same species, when growing in a half-shady damp location can develop into a magnificent flowering bush half as tall as a person, but when growing in a very dry location will only grow into a thin little plant just higher than your ankles, with tiny flowers and a few miniature leaves.

My friend gave me some of its seeds to start my own plant indoors last spring. They were planted along with the other spring seeds. After three weeks, nothing was growing in the Datura pots, so I reused them to start some additional pepper plants.

Once sprouted, I gave away some of these pepper seedlings at the plant swap, to my Dad, and to my landscape architect friends. Dad started asking what variety they were. He said they were growing but not producing any peppers. I attributed this to his upstate New York climate.

Then, my landscape architect friends started. They were not happy. Three of the seedlings turned out not to be bell peppers - but looked like Datura. These plants were taking over their vegetable garden, and were going to see some serious violence unless I wanted them for transplant. I dug up a 3-foot high (1 m) plant ("come and get them yourself"), transplanted, and after three weeks of transplant shock, enjoyed a month of the summer blooms.

Apparently, the Datura seeds took more than three weeks to start growing. After I lost any hope of their germination, they sprouted at the same time as the peppers that were later planted in the same pots. Pepper and Datura seedlings it ends up look alike.

This past year, I started the Datura seeds saved from last summer's plant, and true, they took almost a month to germinate. I kept two plants, and both are now blooming, although they are not as tall and robust as last year. This is probably due to the late start the seedlings got this spring due to my vacation at normal indoor planting time.

Note: the Gold Standard hosta and spiderwort have started blooming again! Is this a screwy year or what!

For The Record:
  • Heavy clay soil
  • Full sun
  • Mystery pests making small holes in leaves
  • Small amount of fertilizer

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: cosmos, canna, nasturtium, mexican zinnia, salvia, zinnia, rudbeckia, calendula,
    hosta, spiderwort, sunflowers, calendula, aster
  • Harvested: 3 tomatoes


Lisa Ueda said...
Okay, that's hysterical. I can just picture them standing there just looking down at it thinking what's w. this pepper?? I tried sprouting some yellow angel trumpet seed, but just wrote them off as bad seed. Maybe I just didn't wait long enough. I love their blooms.
Eva said...
aka Jimson Weed. These were really common among my gardener friends in AZ. Now that I'm back on the East Coast, I've been heartened to see these growing in my work neighborhood (cultivated in townhouse front yards). I think there might be some in my own yard next year. :)
Anonymous said...
I happened to see on another blog to which you commented that you had not yet tried peonies and I couldn't let that go without strongly encouraging them. Even if they don't float your boat, giving them in a luscious bouquet is a wonderful gift for a neighbor or party.
Kerry V
PS I love your blog and am learning a lot about how to improve my own by reading yours:)
Anonymous said...
That's beautiful. I ordered some seeds and this will be my first year with datura. It seems like the seeds are being slow to sprout. Thanks for sharing.