The datura in these pictures, ‘Evening Fragrance’, is identified as Datura meteloides, the same species as a wild datura that grows in my area. I got the wild datura to grow in my garden from seed once. Then I moved, and it wouldn’t. So basically, I bought a tame cultivar of a plant that grows wild in my area.
There’s a lot of confusion in the botany of this genus. It’s pretty well agreed that the shrubbier plants whose flowers hang down are brugmansias, and the more herbaceous plants whose flowers point out or up are daturas. So now the hanging-down flowers have their own genus. But things are still murky in the genus datura, with a lot of argument over who belongs in what species, or whether it’s really a species at all. Since many of the daturas look a great deal alike (like Evening Fragrance, in fact) with only small variations, it’s not an easy question to settle. Someday I’m going to research it in depth so at least I know what the botanists are arguing about.
And then I suppose I’ll have to put any online sources on my RSS, so I can keep up with all the changes. When I was in high school and first learning Latin plant names, I remember feeling so satisfied with myself. “Once I learn these binomials, I’ll never have to learn them again,” I thought to myself. “Knowledge for life.” I knew that little about science, and the vagaries of human nature. Lumpers and splitters (the two categorizing types) have been with us forever. New DNA research has only churned up the delirium over who knows best.
Meanwhile, I’ll just keep growing daturas.
Evening Fragrance is, like many other daturas, not easy from seed. The seeds of daturas and brugmansias are hard to germinate; they seem to have very specific ideas about when they will sprout. But, while I have grown one or two daturas from seed, I’m still not sure what those ideas are, beyond the basics of warm and moist. J. L. Hudson ‘s genus description says that the annuals are easy from seed. Maybe so. But I notice that, along with regular datura seed, they offer datura seeds treated with gibberillic acid, which makes them easier to sprout.
For someone with a small garden and primitive breeding facilities, like me, it’s easier just to buy a plant. The trick is finding plants who like your climate. Some varieties of datura are hardier than others. There are daturas from India and Mexico; from the Northeastern, Southwestern, and Western U.S.; and from many places in Central and South America. The hardy ones from colder climates generally have smaller lavender flowers, without the intoxicating scent. Sorry.
By choosing a datura that grows wild in my area, I could be pretty sure that I’d picked one that would last. I have grown other daturas and brugmansias, but they haven’t liked my garden for long. Part of the reason for this may be that I can only offer them part sun, not the full baking sun they prefer. Or it may be something else.
So keep trying with datura species. Once you find the plants that like your climate, they will obligingly come up year after year.
They come up late, though. Each year I think, “Oh, it was too cold this winter. I’ve finally lost them. They froze.”
And then, sometime in May, I see this:
Fulfilled hope of beauty: sometimes confusing, but always the best intoxication.