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Desert Thorn-apple

Datura discolor

Datura discolor photo © by Michael Plagens

Photographed near Painted Rock Mountain, Maricopa Co., Arizona. Nov. 2, 2008.

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Mature fruit of Datura discolor photo © by Michael Plagens

Fruit of Datura discolor has stout spines. Photographed in Rainbow Valley, Maricopa Co., Arizona. Sept. 12, 2009.

FLOWERS: Large, tubular white flowers, about 15 cm long, with center shaded violet or purple. Opening at night and fading the following morning under hot sun. Blooms late spring and summer depending on rainfall. The sepals below the flower are strongly angled or winged.

ANNUAL: A robust annual of washes in the lower deserts. Plants are mostly less than ½ meter tall.

ARMED. The stems and leaves lack thorns, however the spines on the fruit are sharp enough.

LEAVES: Leaves are broad and dark green and about 10 cm long. Three or so large dentitions plus some smaller dentitions on margins.

RANGE: Washes, particularily those with significant clay or silts, in the lower elevations of the Sonoran Desert in Arizona and ranging into California.

FRUIT: Spherical capsule beset with rather substantial thorns.

The day the plant at upper left was photographed near Gila Bend, Arizona, the area was inundated with an abundance of grasshoppers of several species. The leaves are visibly insect-chewed, but mostly intact and functionally photosynthetic. It seems that the suite of toxic phytochemicals have protected the plant against excessive herbivory. These plants are also toxic to vertebrates including humans.

Solanaceae -- Nightshade Family

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Copyright Michael J. Plagens, 1999-2009