Datura photos: Trina
Vomit video: Greg
My love affair with datura (also called moonflower, jimson weed, devil's trumpet, devil's weed, thorn apple, Jamestown weed, stinkweed, locoweed, pricklyburr, devil's cucumber and hell's bells) ended the night we missed the first half of the black box play because we had to make all the dogs vomit.
I used to grow datura every year, partly because I loved photographing them, partly because I loved the fact that the huge, humble-yet-exotic-seeming flowers open in the evening, making them the perfect flower to keep in pots a) next to the outdoor bathtub where they contribute their hypnotic, otherworldly scent to a luxurious evening soak and b) next to the garden patio table where you can watch them slowly plink-pop-plink open whilst enjoying a lovely outdoor dinner.
It was during such a dinner on a lovely evening in May, with plans and tickets to see a post-dinner performance at the local black box theater, that the vomit hit the fan.
I had recently started a few pots of datura seed. Having bought a dozen or so varieties to experiment with, I had put in a lot of seeds, planted densely, and as always, supplemented the potting soil with organic blood meal and bone meal.
Dogs love blood meal and bone meal.
Half way through dinner I noticed a disturbing silence. A suspicious stillness. Don't I have dogs? Uh, three dogs? Two fairly big ones that are hard to miss and one little bouncey, high strung one that won't let himself go unnoticed, despite his small stature? Do they still live here? I pushed my chair back from the table and turned to see potting soil scattered on the patio. The only pots that had been disturbed and de-soiled were the datura-seeded pots.
In the "deadly nightshade" family, datura is highly toxic. Almost every part of the plant contains hallucinogens, but it's the seeds that people take when they are trying to hallucinate. There is a very small difference between the dosage for hallucinating and the dosage for dying. I've heard more than a few stories of people finishing off their datura trip in the hospital. Doesn't seem like the funnest place to be hallucinating.
What was I thinking leaving datura where the dogs could get to it? I can't answer that. I can say, however, that I no longer grow datura. At all. Anywhere.
We found the dogs and they were, at that point, fine. But I had no idea how many seeds they'd eaten, which of the three dogs had actually eaten them, and what number of seeds might be safe for them versus what number of seeds might kill them. I knew that whatever effect the datura seeds would have, it would hit little Zeek, at only 15 pounds, quickest and hardest. But my two bigger dogs, while being big, were old and maybe weaker? It was a Saturday night. No vets open. Only the emergency clinic. While I was on the phone with them, my friend was calling her mom who knew a trick for making a dog vomit.
The emergency clinic said they could see the dogs right away at a minimum of $560 per dog. Back and forth between my phone call and my friend's, I finally asked the gal at the clinic about the method being recommended by my friend's mom.
"Instead of bringing them in to the clinic, can I just feed them hydrogen peroxide?"
"Oh..... well...... yeah..... that works too."
"Is it safe?"
I managed to get her to tell me, albeit begrudgingly, the correct dosage of hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting, otherwise known as the $1.37 solution. We corralled the dogs in the courtyard, fed each his or her proper dosage, and waited.
Meanwhile, dinner was abandoned half-eaten and the play we were going to see had already started. We thought if things go really well, maybe we'll be able to get in at intermission. If they don't go well, or if there's any question at all about the condition of any of the dogs, we would obviously forego the play altogether -- all dressed up for nothin'!
Five minutes passed. Then, dog bellies started rumbling. Backs started arching. Tails started tucking. Dogs started salivating. Aaaaaand..... yay! We weren't dressed up for nothin'. We were dressed up for a blowout vomitfest. Dogs started vomiting! And they vomited. And they vomited. And they vomited. Three hearty hurks for each dog. There was absolutely nothing left in their bellies. Presence of soil and datura seed in the vomit was scientifically confirmed.
The dogs were amazingly, magically fine, alert and happy after their disgorging. Within minutes, it was like nothing had even happened -- except for the nine piles of moonflower vomit in the courtyard. We cleaned those up, hosed the place down, brushed ourselves off, and off we skipped to catch the second half of the black box play. Tra-la!