Fatal Attraction

Sultry and steamy are the norm for July summer mornings in Austin, but the open blooms of Jimsonweed, Datura wrightii, deliver a dose of cooling bloom to the garden.

Large and glowing, Jimsonweed flowers open at night and close by mid-day.

These two petulantly refused to greet me as I trundled along the path for closer look and a breath of their intoxicating fragrance.

What is this?

A Green Lynx spider, Peucetia viridans rested on the creamy expanse, clutching what looked like a breakfast tidbit.  As I leaned in for a look, Ms Lynx skittered to the underside of the petal, prey in hand.   We briefly played photographer/spider hide-n-seek, but I succeeded in snagging a couple of photos of her–and her intended meal.

The wings of the victim are visible and I suspect the spider’s snack is some sort of small fly.

I didn’t figure out what she captured; it was probably a small bee, gnat, or fly, but she certainly wasn’t going to share with me, nor did she want to dine while I was loitering around her choice of dining establishment.

The spider proved lethal for its winged prey, but Jimsonweed (also known as Sacred Thorn Apple, Thorn Apple, Angel Trumpet, and Sacred Datura) has always been recognized for its toxic properties–all parts of this tough native are poisonous. Southwestern Native Americans utilized the narcotic qualities of Jimsonweed for religious ceremonies, but if prepared improperly (I don’t know what improperly means in this context), the dosage is fatal.

Reveling in the heat of arid summer, my one shrub blooms from July until September, typically with 5-10 flowers each week.  If Jimsonweed grows in full, blasting sun, the plant flowers more, and for a longer period of time.

I’ll need to pop out at night during the next set of blooms and perhaps I’ll observe a pollinating moth.  Until then, I’ll stick with coffee and some fruit for my breakfast and leave the spiders to their own meals.

Cool White

Austin in August is not cool. Austin itself is cool (as we’re constantly reminded)but it is toasty here during our summer months and August is the sweaty king of this heat-challenged time of the year.  I think (hope!!) that the peak of the hot Austin summer has passed and we gardeners can look forward to the  “second spring” flush of blooms which grace our gardens in September, October and November. Until those glorious fall months, there is some cool in my garden in the form of the night-blooming DaturaDatura wrightii.

P1070722.new Also known by a variety of poetic names like Sacred Thorn-apple, Jimsonweed, and Angel Trumpet, this dramatically blooming perennial shrub is a widespread North American native.  The stunning flowers open at sundown,

P1070713.new P1070715.new


…and are available for viewing by gardeners and nectaring by moths throughout the night,P1070721.new

….into the early morning hours.P1070727.new

I wasn’t quick enough document with the camera, but two small native bees busily worked in the center as the flower was closing early morning.  Wild bee breakfast!

The foliage is described as “coarse”, but I’ve always liked the muted grey-green color and the open form of this shrub.P1070775.new


The foliage on my Datura has been a food source for something this summer and I’m guessing that the larvae of some variety of Sphinx Moth  have enjoyed the greenery.  I haven’t seen any caterpillars, only the many holes they’ve decorated the Datura leaves with.


I have seen Sphinx Moths in the garden this summer.

All parts of this plant are toxic and  it’s well-known for its narcotic qualities; Datura was used in religious ceremonies of some Native Americans.

Viewing these blooms is a sublime experience for me.