Datura wrightii (Sacred Thorn-apple)

Plant Info
Also known as: Sacred Datura, Western Jimsonweed, Angel's Trumpet, Indian Apple, Moonflower
Family:Solanaceae (Potato)
Life cycle:perennial
Origin:southwestern US
Habitat:part shade, sun; sandy or gravelly soil; roadsides, waste areas, gardens
Bloom season:July - October
Plant height:2 to 5 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: UPL MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: tubular

[photo of flower] Stalked flowers are single in the leaf axils, branch tips, and forks of branching stems. Flowers are funnel-shaped, up to 9½ inches long, to 5+ inches across when fully open, white to purple-tinged, with 5 petal lobes each with a slender tooth at the tip. Inside the tube are 5 stamens and a single style that slightly extend beyond the floral tube. The calyx cupping the flower is tubular, cylindric to narrowly egg-shaped, to 4+ inches long with 5 sharply pointed lobes at the tip. Flower stalks are erect to ascending in flower, up to ½ inch long. The calyx and flower stalks are densely covered in short, velvety hairs. Flowers open in the evening and wither by noon.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are alternate, dark green, mostly egg-shaped in outline, 1½ to 6 inches long, to 4 inches wide, pointed at the tip, rounded to somewhat heart-shaped and asymmetric at the base, on hairy stalks up to 2 inches long. The edges may be somewhat wavy and have large, coarse, rounded to pointed teeth. The upper surface is minutely hairy, the lower densely covered in short, velvety hairs, especially along veins.

[photo of stem] Stems are erect to ascending, round to weakly angled in cross-section, densely covered in short, velvety hairs, and many branched creating a bushy appearance often wider than high.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of developing fruit] Flower stalks become nodding in fruit, the remains of the calyx surrounding the base like a short skirt. Fruit is a round capsule 1 to 1½ inches diameter, densely covered in velvety hairs and numerous prickles, maturing from green to light yellowish-brown and splitting into 4 parts at maturity.

[photo of seed] Inside are numerous brown to red-brown, flattened, kidney-shaped seeds 4 to 6 mm (to ¼ inch) long.


Sacred Thorn-apple has only been recorded 3 times in Minnesota, two of which were found around Winona well over 100 years ago. It is native to southwestern North America where its native habitat is open, sandy soil but occasionally pops up on roadsides, empty lots, and other waste places as far east and north as New England. We grew it from purchased seed and it did persist after the first year so it is hardy in Minnesota, though rarely escapes cultivation. The entire plant is toxic but it has still been cultivated as a medicinal as well as an ornamental plant.

The flowers are much like other Datura species, though twice or more the size of the other species recorded in Minnesota: Jimsonweed (Datura stramonium); D. stramonium also has fruit on erect stalks where D. wrightii fruit is nodding. Datura inoxia (or D. innoxia) is sometimes considered a synonym for D. wrightii, sometimes considered a separate species; it is reported to have all white flowers 6 to 8 inches (16 to 20 cm) long with 10 teeth on the petals where D. wrightii has white or purple-tinged flowers 8 to 9½ inches (20 to 24 cm) long with 5 teeth.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka and Peter M. Dziuk taken in the garden.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Nancy Paramo - Vadnis Heights
on: 2019-01-25 18:39:33

I gathered seeds from a Datura growing around a mailbox on the side of the road in a well groomed neighborhood this past fall. I plan to plant them this spring. I also pass one about 40 minutes away, just across the boarder in Hudson, WI. It is similarly around a road sign at the edge of someone's well-kept yard.

Posted by: Maggie Merkow - Long Lake (near MPLS)
on: 2019-10-18 18:46:25

I bought 8 seeds on line for purpose of growing some plants and getting more seeds. Now I have tons of seeds. Wondering if anyone sees a problem with planting seeds in my prairie.

Posted by: Cheryl Keller - Faribault
on: 2020-08-13 22:56:38

I noticed this large leafed plant assuming it was sunflowers I had planted. Instead it was this gorgeous white trumpet flower and it literally bloomed overnight once it started showing buds.

Posted by: Jan Morsching - Elysian
on: 2020-09-02 10:31:19

I noticed this plant on September 1st because the large white blossoms just popped out. It was located around a non-mowed area of our farm where several wildflowers and weeds grow. It was among the milkweeds and goldenrods. I had to research several sites to find out that this plant was the sacred thorn-apple plant or datura wrightii.

Posted by: Janet Carlson - Gateway Trail west of Duluth Junction near the next bridge
on: 2021-07-19 19:58:34

I was surprised to see moonflowers in MN. I have seen them in Zion National Park in the Visitor Center parking lot and near the Trailhead to the Slickrock Trail in Canyonlands National Park.

Posted by: Kristian R - Blaine, MN
on: 2021-10-01 12:19:04

One just opened up in our backyard yesterday near the back fence line amongst some other weedy plants. The ten teeth gave it away. Climate change in action I guess.

Posted by: Gayle Raymond - Bloomington
on: 2021-10-27 16:24:29

We have several Moonflower plants for the second season that suddenly appeared on the grassy "boulevard" between street & sidewalk in Southern Syburb of Minneapols. No one planted them. The homeowners decided they liked them, so when they reappeared, they took care to keep weedkillers away from the area. Late in the season this year, I as the weed-puller, found several NEW plants had popped up, unbidden, in the more formal flower gardens I tend. Will they continue to spread willy-nilly? The owners did NOT want me to pull them out as weeds OR to transplant them. Will they continue to spread? The front yard soil is very Sandy, and it supports a large variety of tree and weed seeds which I try to keep at a minimum. What would YOU SAY if you were the homeowners. I am a renter, but if there is a chance the Moonflowers will take over, I should warn them. What do YOU think?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2021-10-27 16:28:48

Gayle, I don't know if "moonflower" is the same species, but most plants do reseed and seeds may be dormant for several years before they germinate. This means new plants can come up in different places different years. Pull out new plants where you don't want them.

Posted by: Wally - Burnsville
on: 2022-07-07 16:01:48

Hello...I am looking for this seed to grow in MN...If you have extra seeds, please let me know.many thanks...

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2022-07-07 16:45:17

Wally, this is not the proper forum for your type of request, particularly since this is not a native plant and we don't advocate propagating exotic plants, whatever the reason. I suggest seeking a gardening group.

Posted by: Mason
on: 2024-02-12 16:50:56

So this is not native then? The map says it is native in MN/WI, but online info is conflicting

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2024-02-12 17:00:08

Mason, this species is native to the southwestern US, not the Upper Midwest. The national map indicates this with a different color for the associated counties.

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