Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

A floral balance at Kasha-Katuwe

with 18 comments

In addition to balanced rocks at Kasha-Katuwe in northern New Mexico on June 12th, here’s a balanced jimsonweed flower (Datura wrightii). Note the tiny native bee on the left side of the flower.

I’d pulled off to the side of the entrance road to photograph the jimsonweed and had barely gotten out of my car when a tribal policeman stopped his patrol car to see what I was up to. I guess very few visitors pull over at a place that doesn’t offer a view of the rock formations.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 18, 2017 at 4:48 AM

18 Responses

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  1. Jimson Weed seeds and juice have hallucinogenic properties, maybe this is why the police were concerned about your interest. Additionally, in marginally high doses the plant is poisonous and can be fatal.


    August 18, 2017 at 4:55 AM

    • What you say about the plant’s toxicity is true. I’d mentioned it in a post way back in 2011:


      Still, I don’t believe that’s why the policeman checked to see what I was doing. When I told him I wanted to photograph the wildflowers, he said that was okay as long as I didn’t walk farther onto the property. I think he was concerned about people trespassing in places where Indians live, as opposed to the geologically appealing part of the national monument where no one now lives.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 18, 2017 at 5:08 AM

  2. A lovely specimen. I like the little holes in the leaves.


    August 18, 2017 at 5:59 AM

    • A lovely specimen, even if imperfect: the leaves had those holes, and part of the frontmost margin of the flower was no longer pure white. I wonder if whatever little creature ate the leaves got intoxicated from the chemicals in them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 18, 2017 at 6:12 AM

      • If they did, they would have been quite off balance.


        August 18, 2017 at 6:38 AM

        • That happens to me sometimes, not from ingested chemicals but from a heavy camera bag slung over my shoulder.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 18, 2017 at 6:46 AM

  3. Little wonder this plant is so powerful. With strong medicine and a stunning appearance, one could be forgiven for worshipping it.


    August 18, 2017 at 8:12 AM

    • Unfortunately, every year some people carry that worship too far and get seriously ill or even die.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 18, 2017 at 8:23 AM

      • That’s an important point. I did not mean to belittle this plant.


        August 18, 2017 at 11:04 AM

        • I didn’t take it as a belittlement of the plant and its beautiful flowers, which I’m always willing to worship photographically. It’s just a shame that some people do such dangerous things in their quest for a high.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 18, 2017 at 12:17 PM

  4. I can’t remember ever seeing a vertical photo of one of these flowers. It’s really quite effective, and has the added advantage of avoiding any resemblance to an O’Keeffe jimson weed.

    Recently, I began to wonder if some of the spiral petroglyphs scattered around the areas you’ve traveled might represent the still-closed bud of this plant. I’m sure you’ve noticed how the end of a bud spirals in just the same way. I’ve read some interpretations of the spirals as symbols for hallucinations, but it makes just as much sense to me that the artists would portray the actual plant.


    August 18, 2017 at 10:21 PM

    • At


      you described a spiraling jimsonweed bud as “a cross between a poorly-formed cinnamon roll and the wax flowers that decorated Victorian homes before plastic and then silk blossoms came along.”

      I’d never thought about it as the inspiration for spiral petroglyphs. That’s an intriguing conjecture. I wonder if anyone has ever tried to corroborate it. I’m afraid a lot of the ancient iconography will remain forever obscure to us.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 18, 2017 at 11:19 PM

  5. Hey Steve .. super image. This plant is in the solanaceae family .. same as spuds and toms 🙂


    August 21, 2017 at 2:34 AM

    • Yes, it is, and like belladonna and some of the other plants in that family, it’s poisonous to people.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 21, 2017 at 6:15 AM

  6. Great image emphasizing the upright bloom. The Datura I took was way back in 2006 and didn’t know anything the thorn apple.


    February 14, 2018 at 8:25 AM

    • A tribal policeman came over to see what I was doing in a place where tourists don’t normally find any reason to stop.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 14, 2018 at 8:36 AM

      • I imagine because of the situation that some of the most unusual wildflowers may only be found hidden. The popular name for this one is ‘Devil’s Trumpet’, probably to announce that a ‘thorny apple’ is somewhere hidden, as it’s so toxic, yet it’s highly medicinal when refined. It’s amazing how nature works on our favor, but only when first studied and respected fully.


        February 14, 2018 at 9:18 AM

        • Unfortunately every year there are a few people who don’t respect jimsonweed and end up dying from trying to get high on it.

          Steve Schwartzman

          February 14, 2018 at 12:38 PM

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