, also called the desert thorn-apple
, is an herbaceous
A herbaceous plant is a plant that has leaves and stems that die down at the end of the growing season to the soil level. They have no persistent woody stem above ground...
An annual plant is a plant that usually germinates, flowers, and dies in a year or season. True annuals will only live longer than a year if they are prevented from setting seed...
native to the Sonoran Desert
The Sonoran Desert is a North American desert which straddles part of the United States-Mexico border and covers large parts of the U.S. states of Arizona and California and the northwest Mexican states of Sonora, Baja California, and Baja California Sur. It is one of the largest and hottest...
of western North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...
, where it grows in sandy soils and washes. All parts of the plant contain a mix of alkaloid
Alkaloids are a group of naturally occurring chemical compounds that contain mostly basic nitrogen atoms. This group also includes some related compounds with neutral and even weakly acidic properties. Also some synthetic compounds of similar structure are attributed to alkaloids...
s that are potentially lethal when enough is ingested. Deaths from careless recreational use of Daturas
and related plants are frequently reported.
The species was first described in 1833. The term discolor
, meaning "various colors," refers to its upward-growing trumpet-shaped flowers, which are white in the bell, and pale to dark violet from the narrow part of the bell to the base. The plant itself is an upright or low-lying shrub that can grow to 4½ feet tall. Its foliage is light green, and its stalks have conspicuous purple stripes. The ovate-shaped leaves can be whole or toothed..
has the largest flowers (up to 6½ in. in diameter) of any Datura
species, which makes it attractive for garden cultivation. The flowers open for only one night and wither the following day. Its seed capsule is thorny like most other Daturas
, and can be up to 3 in. long and 2½ in. in diameter. The species' natural distribution area stretches from Mexico to the Southwestern U.S. and the Caribbean Islands. It is a sun-loving plant which does well underneath overhanging eaves that can protect its flowers from damage by rainfall.
All parts of Datura
plants contain dangerous levels of poison and may be fatal if ingested by humans or other animals, including livestock and pets. In some places it is prohibited to buy, sell or cultivate Datura