Gerald L. Klingaman
Plant Common Name
Like many genera, taxonomists argue about the classification of many species traditionally listed under Datura. The most notable reclassification has been for the South American genus Brugmansia, which comprises many popular ornamental trees and shrubs. There are thirty to forty species, subspecies and varieties of Datura distributed across many parts of the world, temperate and tropical. They are typically large, bushy annuals or short-lived perennials that produce enormous flowers that are light colored and fragrant. Many are ornamental and most are toxic.
The variable leaves of plants in this genus are typically large, lobed and fragrant. The warm season plants produce large, funnel-shaped flowers when mature. Many are white, night blooming and pollinated by moths. The distinctive fruits are spiny capsules that split open to release a heavy load of seeds.
There are lots of ornamental species and hybrids. The best known cultivated species is Datura inoxia. It originates from Central and South America but had become naturalized across the United States, Europe, Asia and other parts of the world. Its beautiful flowers are fragrant and white. Do not allow them to set seed as they will self-sow aggressively. Almost as badly as weedy forms like Jimsonweed (Datura stramonium)
Culture and desirability are species dependent, but most ornamental Datura thrive in full sun and average to poor soil with good drainage. Many are even drought tolerant once established. Toxicity and invasiveness are problems associated with many of these plants. Refrain from planting them in areas where children play or near natural areas where they are not a problem but prone to escape.