Jimsonweed is also called purple thorn apple. One look at the purple stems and prickly fruit of this plant will tell you why.
You’ll find it flowering in August and September, but your timing will have to be right. Generally, Jimsonweed flowers open at night and last only one day. Sometimes you can catch it open on a cloudy day or in the late hours, toward dusk. The flowers are pollinated by nocturnal moths.
At the height of the growing season, jimsonweed is a tall and hardy weed with large leaves that are pointed and toothed. The substantial flowers can grow from 2 to 4 inches long and are funnel-shaped. If you are lucky enough to find in in bloom in daylight hours, turn the flower toward you and look straight down into the exotic spiral—the colors range from white to violet to magenta. Lovely! The shape and color of the jimsonweed flower might remind you of horse nettle or deadly nightshade—two flowers that are also in the Nightshade (or tomato) family. If you know these other plants, I think you’ll agree, Jimsonweed is one of the showier members of this family.
Look for the attractive flowers of Jimsonweed blooming in summer in fields and waste places–but be very careful if you touch it. The spiny leaves, the thorny fruit, and the unpleasant odor of all parts of this plant are designed to warn you that it is very poisonous to consume!
You will continue to see the remains of Jimsonweed in dry, winter fields. The large, desiccated seedpods are fascinating to look at in the late afternoon light. (See the slideshow below.)
Click on any image to open the Jimsonweed gallery below.