|MadSci Network: Environment & Ecology|
Datura is a member of the Potato (Solanaceae) Family, also called the Deadly Nightshade Family. There are several species of the Datura genus, including D. wrightii, commonly referred to as the Southwestern Thorn Apple. D. stramonium is usually called Jimson Weed; D. metaloides is colloquially named Sacred Datura; and D. inoxia is usually referred to as Toloache. The smaller annual, D. discolor, is often called Moon Flower. It grows only 18 inches high and has a purple throat not found in other species. All species of Datura have long been used by native peoples of the Southwest in puberty and other ceremonies because of the plant's halucinogenic alkaloids. People trying to imitate Native American ways have often poisoned themselves, sometimes fatally Poisoning is caused by tropane alkaloids of which the total content of the plant can be as high as 0.7%. They are atropine, hysocyamine, and scopolamine. These are called anticholinergic drugs…and you may want to research the effects of these drugs before you decide to become a chemist. The active principles are fairly water soluble so a macerated solution of the plant would be the easiest. You should consider though that these drugs are highly toxic to mammals (that’s the 4 and 2 legged kind) and I have personally found that insecticidal soap works quite well with minimal risk to us and our ancestors. The secret to pest control is frequent surveillance to get the little suckers when they are few so control is easier. I run a 26 acre nursery and use less than a quart of toxic pesticides in a year and most of that is for Japanese beetle control and even those are handpicked as much as possible and fed to the fish. A final note to exercise extreme care when handling any toxic substance and all pesticides should remain outside the home. Mark
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