Transplanting the Medieval Garden » Thorn Apple

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Thorn Apple

Thorn apple reached Northern Europe from India in the later Middle Ages, although it is mentioned in medieval Arabic texts at an earlier date. (Some authorities regard D. metel as a native of China; see below for the debate about its origin.)

Datura metel was associated with the worship of the Hindu god Shiva from at least the ninth century. A number of other hallucinogenic species in this small genus, including D. inoxia, D. ferox, and D. stramonium, known as Jimson weed, have been revered as sacred plants and used ritually by indigenous peoples in North, Central, and South America. Botanists long believed that the genus was indigenous to both the Old and New Worlds; more recent studies indicate that all daturas are of New World origin, although Datura metel may have have been introduced to the Old World in pre-Columbian times. [The historical evidence is discussed in The Journal of Bioscience, 32 (7), December 2007, 1227–1244 (PDF).] Photograph by Carly Still

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