Sunday, January 10, 2016

Datura search

In my university days I discovered the writings of Carlos Castaneda. Inspired by him (and though I don't think his writings are "true") I bought the book Gift und Arzneipflanzen in Mitteleuropa (Poisonous and medicinal plants of Middle-Europe) for a more scientific insight into this fascinating subject. Since then I've been actively looking for edible, medicinal and poisonous plants. And especially for Datura Stramonium, the thorn-apple, because it is beautiful and uncanny.
Datura Stramonium along a parking lot in Wachendorf, Germany
It took years before I saw my first datura. This was a tiny plant in the Rotterdam harbour growing along a deserted warehouse. Nowadays this place has been gentrified and the ecology has been erased.
I collected the seeds and later planted them on my balcony and along the railway embankment on my way to work. Both plantings prospered but neither had staying power. No plant returned the next season. Now I suspect that the soil was too rich and the ecology too friendly. This fiendish plant likes fiendish surroundings.
An egde-land area reminiscent of the Amsterdam Datura sighting.
The following years I had a few rare sightings of Datura. In Germany I saw many plants in bloom at the edge of a parking lot, but it was too early for seedpods. On the outskirts of Amsterdam I saw a beautiful ripe plant, but I was on a business trip and couldn't visit managers while carrying a dry poisonous bush.
Datura in bloom in the dunes of Hoek van Holland.
Recently I discovered many vigorous datura plants in Hoek van Holland. The first time was frustrating because the plants were in bloom and the seedpods were green and closed. But in December I revisited this area and collected many ripe seedpods. This is not easy, the stems of the plant are extremely tough and the seedpods are hard and very prickly.
I hope that the many families with children that visit the dunes stay away from these plants, they are surprisingly abundant here.
I will never try this and neither should you! - I think you should never experiment with Datura. It is highly poisonous and the margin between a deadly dose and a hallucinogenic dose is very thin. And the concentration of active ingredients is highly variable. So you never know how much you ingest. Finally Datura is a deliriant drug and many Datura trips are highly unpleasant.
Just looking at this plant and reading about its scary properties is sufficiently mind-bending for me.
I intend to plant the seeds somewhere out of reach of humans and especially children. I now have a better idea of the ecology this plant likes: highly disturbed and recently disturbed sandy soil. I know a few places where it could feel at home. We will see what happens next.

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