Thorn Apple

Datura stramonium Thorn Apple

The Thorn Apple, Jimsonweed or Devil’s Snare is not related to the “real” apple from the rose family. Instead, it is related to potato and tomato. Datura stramonium belongs to the nightshade family (Solanaceae).

Datura stramonium
Datura stramonium on an embankment. Taken at the end of November 2022.

Where does Datura stramonium come from?

Its original area of distribution is in Mexico and reaches as far south as the USA (source).

Through human spread, the Thorn Apple came to many other regions. In Central Europe it is said to have been native for several hundred years.

Common Thorn Apple

How does the Thorn Apple grow?

Always an annual in northern and central Europe, it does not tolerate frost. But its seeds survive the winter without any problems.

Its growth habit and height depend on the location and weather.

If the soil is nutrient-rich and evenly moist, the Thorn Apple can grow over a metre tall and look like a small shrub in late summer.

In locations with poor or dry soil it remains much smaller and looks like a herb.

The first small thorn apple plants can be seen from mid-May. In dry spring years, such as that of 2022, the seeds germinate later.

Due to the shorter growing season, the plants and their fruits remain smaller.

Thorn Apple

Where does the Thorn Apple grow?

Datura stramonium grows in sunny to semi-shady locations. It does best in evenly moist and nutrient-rich soil.

The Thorn Apple can be found in waste places, dams, embankments, roadsides, meadows and is often found on building sites. It is spread with the soil excavated there.

Thorn Apple on a construction site
Thorn Apple and Goosefoot (Chenopodium album) on a construction site that has been filled with fresh soil.

Is the Thorn Apple poisonous?

Yes, all parts of the plant contain the tropane alkaloids (S)-hyoscyamine and scopolamine.

white flowering Thorn Apple

When does Datura stramonium flower?

In years with regular rainfall, the flowering period can last from June to November. If the spring and summer are dry, only from September to December.

The funnel-shaped flowers can be white, light yellow or pale purple in colour.

frozen Thorn Apple
Frozen Thorn Apple in December 2020.