Datura innoxia

According to Peter T. Furst, “Datura, toloache from the Nahuatl toloatzin, in Mexico and also in Indian California, was, and in many places still is, the ritual intoxicant of choice among native peoples of the Southwest and northwestern Mexico, including the Tepehuan.” Also called Mexican Thorn Apple, this plant was used by the Aztecs (Mexica) to reduce fever, by the Tarahumara (Rarámuri) to fortify fermented drinks and by the Yaqui (Yoeme) to produce a visionary state. 

This sacred plant is associated with numerous indigenous myths. For example, the authors of Plants of the Gods, Schultes and Hofmann, recount the Zuñi Indian story about the divine origin of Datura in which a brother and sister who knew too much about ghosts and the hidden things of the world and, consequently, offended the Divine Ones, who banished them forever.

The Datura flowers appeared where the two descended into the earth. 

The blooms were exactly the same as the ones with which the brother and sister would adorn themselves on each side of their heads when they used to visit the outer world.

Now that it is possible to include a more ample selection of confocal microscope images for the website, it is clear that some species really seem more “photogenic” than others. Datura really is a star, perhaps attributable in part to the fact that it was growing in Becky Harblin’s garden in upstate New York and was not one of the species that had to be transported from afar. A fresher specimen would not be possible! Especially notable are the grains of pink-tinted pollen and the striated textures of the vascular tissue in which the stomata are embedded. When botanical structures cede to the purely abstract dimension of Microcosmic Phytoformalism as they do in many of the Datura images here, these perfectly natural shapes that we have documented are every bit as interesting to contemplate aesthetically as the visual expression produced by professional artists. 


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