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Statewide IPM Program, University of California

Sacred Thornapple  (Datura wrightii (Nightshade Family: Solanaceae) )

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Life stages of Sacred datura flower and fruit fruit mature plants leaves seeds

Sacred thornapple is a native annual or perennial broadleaf. In California it is found in the southwestern region, desert regions, central-western region, Central Valley, central and southern Sierra Nevada, Tehachapi Mountains, and eastern North Coast Ranges to an elevation of 7200 feet (2200 m). It inhabits agricultural land and open, disturbed, and unmanaged sites. This plant is toxic to humans and livestock when ingested. Livestock seldom consume fresh plants because of their unpleasant scent and taste. However, livestock can consume dried foliage and large numbers of ground seed in poor quality hay or feed, causing health problems. Sacred thornapple is similar to a related annual species, jimsonweed, Datura stramonium.


Open disturbed places, roadsides, pastures, livestock enclosures, agronomic and vegetable crop fields, orchards, vineyards, ditch banks, and disturbed, unmanaged areas.


Seedlings germinate in May or June. The cotyledons (seed leaves) are narrowly lance shaped, pointy, and often sparsely hairy with smooth, short hairs on the upper surface. Crushed leaves have an unpleasant odor. The main stalk below each cotyledon is hairy and often deep violet. The first leaf is oval with smooth edges. Later leaves have smooth, wavy, or wavy-toothed to lobed edges.

Mature plant

Sacred thornapple grows 2 to 3 feet (60–90 cm) tall. It is widely branched and has a fleshy taproot. Leaves are 1-1/2 to 5 inches (3.7–12.5 cm) long, elliptical, asymmetrical at the base, gray green with short, soft, gray hairs. Leaves have an unpleasant scent.


Flowers bloom from April through October. They are large, 6 to 10 inches (15–25 cm) long and white or violet tinged. The petals are fused giving the flower a tubelike or funnel shape and five slender teeth extend from the fused petals.


Fruit consist of hard, roughly spherical capsules that are densely covered with numerous short spines. Sacred thornapple fruit hang from a stalk and have slender spines distinguishing them from the jimsonweed fruit, which are more oval, stand erect from their stalk, and have thicker, more robust spines.


Seeds are brown to tan, rounded triangular to slightly kidney shaped, flattened, and have grooved edges.


Reproduces by seed.

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