Common Name
Jimson weed, Thorn apple
Botanic Name
Datura stramonium L.
Plant Family
Solanaceae (potato and nightshade family)
Prefers disturbed soils of barnyards, corrals, cultivated fields.
Animals Affected
Cattle, sheep, goats, horses, pigs, poultry, people
Toxic Principle
All Datura species, and all parts of the plant and especially the seeds contain many alkaloids, the most toxic of which are hyoscyamine, hyoscine (scopolamine) and atropine. The principal effect of these alkaloids is on the autonomic nervous system. Impaired vision due to pupil dilation, excessive thirst, decreased gastrointestinal activity, increased heart rate and convulsions may result from the effects of the alkaloids. The plant is generally not consumed by livestock except when other food in not available. The seeds may be eaten when mixed with grain. Corn contaminated with 0.5% Datura seeds will induce colic in horses. Freshly cut corn contaminated with Jimson weed intended for silage is toxic to all animals. Ref: Binev R, Valchev I, Nikolov J. Clinical and pathological studies on intoxication in horses from freshly cut Jimson weed (Datura stramonium)-contaminated maize intended for ensiling. J S Afr Vet Assoc. 2006. 77 :215-219. Most cases of human poisoning from Datura species are associated with teenagers eating the seeds to experience the hallucinogenic effects of the toxic alkaloids in the seeds. Ref: Forrester MB. Jimsonweed (Datura stramonium) exposures in Texas, 1998-2004.J Toxicol Environ Health A. 2006. 69: 1757-1762.
Annual, erect, branching weed growing from a thick tap-root and attaining heights from 3-5 feet. Large leaves are hairy and have irregular, toothed margins. Flowers are white or sometimes purple, trumpet-shaped, and fragrant. Fruits are prickly capsules containing many black finely pitted, flattened seeds. The crushed leaves or stems have a strong pungent odor. Sacred datura, tolguacha (datura meteloids) is similar but has much larger showy white flowers and the fruits have more and finer spines.
Decreased salivation, dry muzzle, rumen stasis, bloat, loss of appetite, excessive thirst. Colic may be seen in horses eating Jimson weed seeds.
Congenital Defects
Arthrogryposis (deformed joints) has been reported in pigs, but not confirmed in experimental trials.
Remove all sources of Jimson weed from animal access
Cardiovascular system
Increased heart rate
Nervous System
Halucinogenic effects in people chewing the seeds.
Reproductive System
Chickens will decrease egg production.
Ocular System
Dilated pupils. Vision may be impaired.
Special Notes
Jimson weed has a strong odor and is generally distasteful to livestock. Most poisoning occurs when Jimson weed seeds are mixed with grain in livestock rations. The quantity of jimson weed seed present in the grain will dictate if the grain is likely to be poisonous to cattle and the severity of clinical signs. Grain containing more than 1000 jimson weed seeds per kilogram of grain should be considered toxic for cattle. The greater the number of seeds/kg, the more severe the signs of poisoning. Affected cattle will stop eating, bloating may occur, and in severe cases respiratory and heart irregularities may develop. Horses and pigs are more susceptible; horses will develop decreased intestinal motility, gaseous colic and heart irregularity with as little as 500 seeds/kg of grain. Poultry are even more susceptible to jimson seed poisoning. It is very important to regularly clean out feed bunks because the seed can accumulate in the bottom of the bunk and result in poisoning.
Sacred datura (Datura meteloides)
Jimson weed seed pods.
Jimson weed spiny seed capsule and seeds.
Detail of leaf, flower and seed capsule
Green seed pods of Datura meteloides