Sacred datura is a sprawling to ascending perennial herb arising from a large, fleshy storage root. Triangular leaves are less than 4½ inches (11 cm) long with margins that are smooth or coarsely toothed. Leaves are green, given a gray sheen by a covering of short, whitish hairs. Crushed leaves emit an unpleasant odor. In our climate, the plant is evergreen.
The large, fragrant flowers are white, sometimes tinged with lavender. Each flower arises from a fork in the stem. There are five sepals, fused into a narrow, five-lobed tube. Petals are fused together into a flaring trumpet, up to 8 inches (20 cm) long and 6 inches (15 cm) in diameter. Petals form five sharp points arranged symmetrically around the flower margin. Flowers are bisexual. Five male stamens and a single female pistil emerge from the throat of the flower.
Sacred datura blooms from April to October.1 The fragrant flowers open late in the day and remain open until late morning the following day.
Shortly after flowering, the petals and most of the calyx drop off. The basal portion of the calyx reflexes back along the stem and forms a green crown on top of the fruit. The fruit is a pendulous, flat-topped ball, usually less than 1½ inches (4 cm), covered with long spines, many hooked. The fruit is green when young, brown when mature and resembles a small wild cucumber fruit. Each fruit contains numerous large flattened tan seeds, about ¼ inches (6 mm) long. When dried, the fruit splits open, releasing the seeds.
NOTE: Like many members of the nightshade family, sacred datura contains a variety of alkaloid compounds. In this species, the primary alkaloid is scopolamine.34 All parts of the plant are toxic.