Perhaps you’ve heard the rumors about how jimson weed produces effects similar to marijuana after injestion or inhalation. While there is some validity to this claim, it can also cause some very serious problems in the human body. Consider the other names for this plant: thorn apple and devil’s snare.
The jimson weed is not only dangerous and has ominous names, but it is also an invasive weed that grows aggressively in temperate climates. Because of its aggressive growth, it has the potential to take over your lawn.
So, before this unwelcome visitor appears on your lawn, you should read this article. Because you’ll learn how to identify it, the specific dangers it poses, and some control methods so you can deal with it if it appears on your lawn.
Jimson Weed Identification
One important way to identify this annual branching herb from the nightshade family has nothing to do with its appearance. It emits a foul odor that is easily detected. So, if you’re smelling something strange in your manicured lawn full of lovely, fragrant flowers, it could be jimsonweed (Datura stramonium).
This plant’s root system is very fibrous and branches repeatedly from the taproot. The white taproot is long and thick as well. It takes some elbow grease to break the root and get it out of the ground.
The stem of Jimson weed grows very upright. If left unchecked, it can grow to be between 3 and 5 feet tall. The hollow, yellowish-green or purplish-red stem is also very sturdy. The stem forks numerous times to form strong branches. At each of the forks, a leaf and a single flower grow upright.
The leaves are 3 to 8 inches long and have toothed margins. Individual teeth on the margins are triangular in shape. They have no hair and are smooth and irregularly wavy. The lower surface of the leaves is a light green color. The top layer is a much darker green. They can reach up to 6 inches in width and are held to the stem by stout, relatively rigid petioles.
The trumpet-shaped flowers are large, reaching between 2 and 6 inches in length. Individual flowers are supported by short pedicels or stalks. Pedicels extend upward from the leaf or branch axils. Sepals surround the lower part of the jimson weed flower. The flowers range in color from white to purple and are not responsible for the plant’s foul odor. The smell comes from the leaves.
The jimson weed fruit grows to be 1 to 2 inches long and shaped like an egg. The fruit is covered in stiff, spike-like bristles the size of a walnut. The egg shape will split into four distinct sections as the fruit matures.
Dangers of the Jimson Weed
Some people use jimson weed for the “high” it produces because it grows naturally, has anticholinergic properties, and is completely legal. It can be chewed, brewed into tea, dried and smoked, or eaten as seeds.
All parts of the plant are toxic, and ingesting jimson weed can be harmful to your health and lead to serious medical complications. Some of the more common side effects of devil’s snare consumption include:
- Dry Mouth
- Dilated Pupils
- Blurred Vision
- Urinary Retention
- Confusion and Combative Behavior
The toxicity of jimson weed can be lethal. Although death is uncommon, it does occur on occasion. Seizures and coma are two of the most common symptoms of severe jimson weed poisoning.
Anticholinergic poisoning can occur in people who consume the plant. Seizures, severe hallucinations, hypertension, and potentially fatal heart arrhythmias can result.
Treatment for jimson weed consumption includes the use of beta-blockers to help with heart problems such as tachycardia. Another method for reducing the toxicity of this plant is gastric lavage with charcoal.
If you or someone you know consumes this plant, seek treatment at your local emergency department as some of these side effects may result in death.
Jimson Weed Control Methods
Controlling the growth of this annual weed can be challenging. These toxic plants’ seeds can survive for up to 100 years. Cultivation of the soil where these older seeds have sunken deep into the ground can bring them to the surface and lead to germination and growth. Even a century later. Each new plant that sprouts up on your lawn has the capacity to produce up to 1000 seeds.
One advantage of combating these plants is that they are annuals and do not reproduce from root systems left in the ground.
When it comes to controlling the presence of jimsonweed in your lawn, an efficient and effective mowing schedule (that uses proper mowing practices) is often all that is required. It may take several seasons to completely eliminate any seeds that have fallen from a mature plant. With some time and effort, you can completely beat back this plant by keeping it mowed short so that the new growth isn’t around long enough to go to seed.
You can pull jimsonweed by hand if you find it in your lawn or garden. If you go this route, make sure to wear gloves. Eye protection is also a good idea.
If you prefer, you can use a post-emergent herbicide to control devil’s snare. It may take several applications to kill the plant completely.
When the plant dies, you must remove it from the ground. Once again, gloves are required. Pulling these plants from the ground should be done with caution because the root system contains alkaloids that can harm surrounding vegetation. The alkaloids are released into the soil when the taproot is broken open. So make every effort to keep the taproot intact.
When removing jimsonweed, place the plant and its seeds in a garbage bag and tie the top shut. By putting them in the bag, you keep the long-lasting seeds from spreading elsewhere on your property.
If you’re going to get rid of this plant, don’t burn it. Because if you do, you might as well have rolled it yourself and smoked it.