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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Monday - September 26, 2005

From: Winchendon, MA
Region: Southeast
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Non-native, invasive Datura sprouting from compost
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Hi, I have a plant growing out of some compost we purchased this spring and no one can tell me what it is. It's about 4 ft. tall, the stem is maroon like rhubarb and it produces 4-5 in. tubular light purple flowers with a long stamen. It only opens in the early morning and late afternoon and dies off the next day. It has no smell and produces an oval, very thorny seed pod. The leaves look like oak leaves streched long. Someone said it was an angel trumpet or a red pigroot, but it's neither. It's driving me crazy!! Can you please help me?!!! Thank You in advance.

ANSWER:

This sounds like one of the Datura, probably Jimsonweed (Datura stramonium). It is an introduced species from Asia, but can be found in nearly every state of the U. S. Another non-native is D. metel, a native of India. D. wrightii is a very similar native North American species. These plants belong to the Family Solanaceae (Potato Family). Like many members of this family, Datura spp. are toxic but have been used in folk medicine for various ailments and have also been used as a psychotropic drug.
 

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