Her name is Datura.
Delicate fluted deep-throated trumpets open to
hungry honey bees and summer rains.
She communicates through scent.
In the fall I collect her sharp-needled pods.
They rattle like dry bones.
I chill them.
In the spring I coax seeds to sprout
wrapping each in papery white cloth,
sing love songs – siren calls
to rouse each root from winter’s sleep.
I am patient…
a woman in waiting for the heat of the sun
and the mystery of becoming
that is re-acted in spring.
Only seeds know when to swell and burst.
Wooly hairs branch out from a single root.
Curling themselves into screw like shapes,
They leave it to me to untangle head from foot!
I hear the Old Ones call her Sacred
West wind whips red sand into my face,
as I place each sprout in well dampened soil.
Within a week green wings unfold
– twin leafed plantlets
lean into the fierce light of a golden eye.
Each seedling seeks its own form.
DNA meets the pattern of becoming
held by cosmic forces in a spiral round.
I imagine a bush of sensuous pearl white trumpets
– lacy lavender tipped edges unfurling at dusk.
Datura converses with the Hawk moth under a blossoming moon.
An ancient plant with unknown origins
Datura bridges continents,
passed on by Indigenous story and feet.
A muse full of secrets
she is known by those
(who have been initiated into her ways)
as “Grandmother,” whose poison is deadly.
She is also a visionary and healer.
She comes to some through dreams.
The un- initiated fear her.
They call her devil, thorn apple,
witches wildflower, in woeful ignorance
of the breadth of her power.
“Dementia!” they sling arrows of ignorance,
accuse her as one who would kill or maim.
As well she might.
To those who would use her
without respect or care,
she mutters a warning:
Datura flowers are startling, huge, trumpet shaped – pearl white and luminous, tinted with pale to deep lavender around the edges – and in northern Mexico, intensely fragrant after rain. Last summer, like the bees that hummed around the flowers from dawn to dusk, I too couldn’t get enough of the sweet scent of literally hundreds of undulating lace edged trumpets that opened each morning or evening after a rain. These wild plants are also known as devil’s trumpet, moonflowers, devil’s weed and thorn apple.
Late last fall I collected prickly seed pods and stored them over the winter. This spring I coaxed seeds to sprout, planting them here and there, imagining a summer desert filled with clumps of fragrant blossoms.
Datura has the ability to shapeshift – literally. Depending upon growing conditions this plant can develop into a large four or five foot bush, or spread its small umbrella of pointed leaves and flowers over a dry desert wash, barely reaching twelve inches in height. The plant can change its shape as well as the amount of its toxicity which confused botanists for years!
In service to Life Datura removes lead from the soil and stores it in her roots and leaves. While the plant provides nectar for bees and other insectivores it forms an intimate partnership (mutualism) with the Hawk moth, an insect almost as large as the human hand. Datura furnishes the moth with nectar and shelters its eggs (newly hatched larvae are served a tasty leafy meal by this mothering plant). But in return pollen is transferred from moth to flower enabling fertilization to take place. With the help of the moth, Datura can then produce fruit and seeds for another year.
Datura belongs to the classic “witches weeds” according to Wikipedia, along with deadly nightshade, henbane, mandrake, hemlock and other toxic plants. “It was well known as an essential ingredient of potions and witches brews,” according to this source.
Indigenous peoples across the globe have been using this plant for millennia to seek spirit helpers through visioning. All parts of this plant are lethal and only those that are initiated through the (secret) oral traditions know how to neutralize the poison.