Thursday, August 22, 2013

Prairie Plant Profile #5 - Angel's Trumpet

Last year I removed some of the remaining St. Augustine grass in the narrow side yard between my driveway and the neighbor's fence. I needed a place to store the excess dirt that resulted from my pathway projects. Once I had excavated more dirt than I needed, I put a Free Dirt post on craigslist and the dirt was usually gone within hours. 

It turns out that seeds from other parts of the garden tagged along when I moved dirt to this area. Rock Rose, Clammy Weed, Cowpen Daisy, and Mealycup Sage sprouted in this space. Note to self: write a post on the odd names of native plants. But the volunteer plant that gets the most attention is Datura wrightii, which goes by the common names Angel's Trumpet, Devil's Trumpet, Sacred Datura, Sacred Thorn-Apple, Thorn Apple, and Jimsonweed. I usually refer to the plant as either Datura or Angel's Trumpet, depending on who I am talking to.

What makes this plant special are the large white flowers that open in the evening. This photo was taken at about 7:30 PM when the flowers were about half way open.

I can't recall the last time I intentionally planted Angel's Trumpet in my garden. It reseeds and grows where it wants until I remove the unwanted plants. I allowed three plants to grow in this spot. The seeds for these plants probably came from the plant that was growing nearby in my compost bin for the last couple of years. All it takes is a little sun and a little water to have a massive plant. This mass is about eight feet around. I have had single plants grow as large as these three combined.


When the flowers begin to open, their intoxicating scent fills the air and so do bees.  



The bees like these flowers so much that they will even force themselves into the flowers when they are still tightly closed.


At 8:00 PM the flowers are open a little more and the bees are still buzzing in and out of the flowers. All of the buzzing inspired me to make a short movie.




By the next morning, the fully open flowers are attracting the bees again even though they are a starting to brown and wilt. Within a few hours, the flowers will droop and wither.

Spiny seedpods develop after the flowers fade.

The seedpods split open when they dry and hundreds of seeds fall to the ground. It seems like 100% of the seeds sprout. Earlier this year, I shared some of the many seedlings with a few neighbors. The rest of the seedlings were removed.


The plants sometimes attract leaffooted bugs, Leptoglossus phyllopus. The bugs are more of an annoyance than anything because they may fly out when you approach the plant. They may also be the cause of the spots on these leaves. The leaves of the plants are also a food source for the large caterpillars of hawk moths. I leave the caterpillars alone because they usually do not do much visible damage since the plants grow so fast and because I enjoy watching them return to the flowers as hawk moths.

16 comments:

  1. There's a variegated variety that is really lovely.

    I like to call these Datura and the upright ones, the Brugs, Angel's Trumpets. Tomato, tom-ah-to.

    Very nice!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don’t recall seeing a variegated variety before, Misti. Sounds interesting. I tend to use the species name with plant people and the common name with everyone else. The problem with common names is that they often apply to more than one plant.

      Delete
  2. The datura looks just right in that spot. I have one for the first time this year and was planning to make sure I collected seeds for next year. Reading this it seems I might not need to be concerned about it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Shirley, my plants are generally perennials so you should not have any problem with them returning in the spring. I may have exaggerated a bit about 100% of the seeds sprouting, but it did look like a thick green carpet under the mother plants this spring.

      Delete
  3. What a spectacular display of the white! I like to layer the tall Brugmansias with the Variegated purple Datura and the White Datura down low.

    Angel's Trumpets hang down toward the earth and Devil's Trumpets look up toward the heavens, I'm told. The nighttime fragrances of all are incredible.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. NellJean, that is a good way to remember common names. As far as I know, the flowers of all of the Brugmansias hand down and the flowers of the Datura point up. I have never grown a Brugmansia because they are not winter hardy here.

      Delete
  4. My grandmother used to have this plant in her Venice garden, and I still remember its not too pleasant scent. When I studied botany I wonder whether she knew it was poisonous. I was surprised when I saw it growing wild along highway 5 in California. Thanks for the information on the bees, didn't realize it attracted them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Laura, the flowers of the plants do smell nice, but, you are right, the leaves and stems have an unusual scent when crushed or broken. You mention the plant being poisonous. From what I have read (not experienced), the roots and seed pods can be used as a hallucinogen. I don’t share that bit of information with my neighbors.

      Delete
  5. I just aquired a couple of these, Michael, and put them in old pots to shade them until they get better established. Yours are just great. Do you find they come back from roots as a tender perennial? Mine are already forming flowers after only a week and half.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Randy, mine do come back from the roots in the spring. The root mass gets pretty big and woody after a few years and seems to die off. There are always lots of seedlings that will take its place. They also seem to do well with a fair amount of afternoon sun. I had one that popped up next to the fence and at the edge of an oak tree. It only received morning sun. It grew six feet tall and wide and bloomed heavily.

      Delete
    2. Wow. It`s about normal, that when a plant catches my attention , you come up with a great post an a near perfect example!

      Delete
  6. Have you noticed the hawk moths visiting the blooms? Not only do they visit the blooms.... The tomato moth is willing to use datura wrightii as a host plant... Saves wear and tear on the tomatoes...

    I cleared out a huge patch of these things from my veggie garden this year... And then seeing your beautiful shots... Makes me miss the ones that I composted...

    I've been using them as the active ingredient in my deer away mixtures... Works... Until the next rain. This year... That's been just about daily...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lucky you for getting regular rain. I do see hawk moths visiting the flowers. Caterpillars too. I leave them along and just let them munch out on the leaves.

      Delete
  7. In the past you posted some great shots of your pitcher sage and how it will bloom in the Fall. Do your plants tend to 'flop' as they mature'? And if they do, do you support them with other plants growing beside them? I have read that a 'haircut' after a Spring bloom will help them become more compact.
    Also, would you consider publishing a post describing your pruning routines for your perennials. I'm referring to the 'major players' that you use year after year. I'm not really asking about the trees.
    many thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. D Dale, I think I have two varieties of pitcher sage. One has darker flowers, sprawls and never reseeds. The other has a little lighter flowers, grows upright and reseeds. I even have a mutant white seedling coming up this year.

      I cut back my pitcher sage last year and it did keep them bushier and upright. I did not do it this year and the sprawler is doing just that, while the upright one is tall and leggy. My sprawler is supported by growing in and out nearby plants. I read somewhere that the native prairie grasses provide the support in their natural habitat.

      A couple of weeks ago, I cut back some of my perennials to prepare for the fall bloom. I will have some info on that in the next post. I usually do a clean up after the spring bloom, maybe a light or selective clean up toward the end of summer depending on plant growth, another clean up after a hard frost and then a major hacking of anything that is left in mid to late February. If there is a plant that reseeds more than I like, such as mealycup sage, zexmenia, gayfeather, and frost weed, I will trim off the spent flowers as soon as a major flush of blooms is over. That is really about it, but I will see if I can expand on that topic sometime.

      Delete
    2. Thank you for the info on the pitcher sage.
      A 'Pruning Tutorial' blog post, would be a great help for the newbies out here.

      Delete

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. Any comments that look like spam or link to a commercial venture will be deleted.

All content © Michael McDowell for Plano Prairie Garden 2009-2016. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.