Downy thorn apple

Downy thorn apple

Datura stramonium (Solanaceae)

Common Name:

Downy thorn apple

Scientific Name:

Datura stramonium (Solanaceae)

Alternative common names:

Ditch weed; jimson weed; stinkwort (English); gewone stinkblaar; malpitte (Afrikaans); iloqi (isiZulu); lechoe (Sesotho); umhlavuthwa (Xhosa)


Erect annual shrub, grows up to 1,5m high with sparsely hairy to smooth, green, brown or purple stems. Leaves are dark green or purple on the upper surface and paler underneath the leaves, and are sparsely hairy and bad smelling. Solitary white, mauve or purplish funnel-shaped flowers appear from October to March followed by brown hardened fruit capsules covered with slender spines up to 10mm long. The seeds and parts of this plant are poisonous to livestock and humans. 

Additional Information

Where does this species come from?

Tropical America.

What is its invasive status in South Africa?

CARA 2002 - Category 1 NEMBA - 1b

Where in South Africa is it a problem?

Found throughout South Africa.

How does it spread?

Spread by seed dispersal.

Why is it a problem?

It competes with crops and indigenous species.

What does it look like?

General description: Sparsely hairy, green, brown or purple, erect annual herb growing up to 1,5m in height.
Leaves: Dark green or purple and paler underneath with the margins coarsely and irregularly toothed or lobed, bad-smelling.
Flowers: White, mauve or purplish, narrowly funnel-shaped flowers.
Fruit/Seeds: Brown, hardened capsules covered with slender spines.

Does the plant have any uses?

No, however, the poisonous seeds are used for hallucinogenic purposes - hence the Afrikaans name malpitte.

Leave a Reply