Bizarre Botany: Jimsonweed

Jimsonweed is named after Jamestown, but actually gained notoriety due to a mass poisoning in 1676.

The people of Jamestown, Virginia, who were primarily soldiers, believed they were simply enjoying a fresh salad. Unfortunately, the leaves and seeds induce delirium and bring about hallucinations.

Strangely enough, humans have been poisoned by the Jimsonweed in far greater numbers than animals. The flowers are sizable, and normally a beautiful shade of purple. Jimsonweed is known for a foul odor and terrible taste.

The plant is so toxic that it can contaminate honey when bees alight on the petals. The tainted pollen can contaminate the entire hive.

Ancient healers utilized the plant, in very small amounts, to treat ailments such as madness and melancholy, as well as epilepsy. A philtre was created and offered to the patient, who then consumed the mixture.

Other names of the dangerous plant include: Jamestown Weed, Thorn Apple, Devil’s Trumpet, and Mad Apple

Unfortunately, the taste an odor haven’t always been enough to discourage human consumption. In 1995, 5 young men chewed the seeds of a Jimsonweed plant. All were rushed to the hospital. Several were hospitalized for days. They reported believing there were bugs crawling under their skin, several believed they were dead, and the remainder witnessed their body parts strewn about the room.

 

3 thoughts on “Bizarre Botany: Jimsonweed

  • June 17, 2012 at 2:21 am
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    Wow. This just goes to show that one should be careful what one consumes. The effects just might be devastating and, even worse, irreversible. I wonder how it was discovered in the first place, hmmm.

    How is this plant treated/regulated in current time? Has it been outlawed yet? No doubt the FDA has taken a part in the issue.

    By the way, the last paragraph suggests not only a terrifying mystery but also an intriguing story to write. Great inspiration, in a morbid sort of way, hehe.

    Thanks for sharing, Laura. 🙂

    Mark

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    Reply
    • June 17, 2012 at 3:17 pm
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      Hi! As far as I’ve found, the mass poisoning was the first time the plant got any real attention and became known for its toxicity. I’m not aware of any special regulation, but there might be in the agricultural industry or with bee husbandry. Animals apparently stay farther away from it than people, so they won’t eat it. To me, the leaves resemble the dandelion, so I’m guessing the Jamestown people thought it was just a harmless green when they ate it.

      I don’t know of any ban on it. The information I found didn’t make it sound like the plant was rampant or widespread. I think, since it’s stinky and tastes bad, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to confuse it with an edible plant, so maybe they haven’t given it that much attention.

      I tend to find morbid things pretty interesting when they’re historic or well-established 😉

      Reply
      • June 18, 2012 at 1:57 am
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        That certainly sounds weird. This plant resembles something along the lines of a “plant” monster that exists only in a remote area and has thriller written all over it; I can see this as the subject of a novel in more than one genre.

        In any case, the information is certainly fascinating, and I agree on your last statement. The fact that such information is morbidly mysterious is exactly what makes it intriguing. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

        Reply

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