Among the variety of names given to this species of Datura, the best known are Jamestown or Jimson weed, stramonium, devil's apple, mad apple, stinkwort. The Indians speak of it as the "White man's plant."
Photo - F. Fyles.
The thorn apple is a large and coarse annual from two to five feet high, with pale-green smooth stems and darker green leaves. The whole plant exhales a heavy nauseating narcotic odour. The leaves are egg-shaped, coarsely wavy toothed or angled. The flowers are white, two to four inches long, tubular, with fine teeth. The fruit or seed capsule is globular, slightly longer than wide, covered with coarse prickles, breaking open into four parts to show the numerous rather large seeds within. The plant is in bloom from May to September.
It has been introduced in Canada among garden seeds and is now found scattered throughout on waste ground.
It is a well-known narcotic poisonous plant. All parts of the plant are exceedingly poisonous, especially the seeds. Children are tempted to eat the fruit when playing where the plant is growing. Fatalities among children have occurred on several occasions in the United States.
The plant contains the three alkaloids, daturine, hyoscyamine, and atropine, which are highly poisonous. The toxicity is not destroyed by drying, and cattle poisoning has been recorded in the United States where the leaves were mixed with the hay. As a rule animals avoid the plant on account of its unpleasant odour and strong taste.
The general symptoms as given by Chesnut are, "Headache, vertigo, nausea, extreme thirst, dry, burning skin, and general nervous confusion, with dilated pupils, loss of sight and of voluntary motion, and sometimes mania, convulsions, and death."
Remedy and Means of Control: The plants should be grubbed out or pulled wherever they have escaped from cultivation. No seeds should be allowed to mature, and all parts of the plant should be burned.
Other Species of Datura.
The purple thorn-apple (Datura Tatula L.) is another introduced weed of a similar nature found on waste ground in Ontario. It may readily be distinguished by its purple stem and pale violet-purple flower. This and D. Metel L. are also narcotic poisonous plants to be equally avoided.