Deadly Hallucinogenic Plant Blooming in Columbus Avenue Bike Lane Divider


Photo by Adrian Benepe.

By Carol Tannenhauser

If the line at Trader Joe’s doesn’t blow your mind, the plant across the street could—and kill you, if you eat it.

A bush of Datura stramonium, a.k.a. Jimsonweed, is sitting in a small patch of soil inside the concrete median alongside the bike lane on Columbus Avenue at 93rd Street, across from Trader Joe’s. Jimsonweed is “a well-known hallucinogenic plant [that] is fatally toxic when consumed in even tiny amounts,” tweeted Adrian Benepe, the former commissioner of NYC parks & recreation, on Saturday. Benepe was riding his bicycle in the Columbus Avenue bike lane at 93rd Street when he spotted it on the southeast corner.

“This plant is an invasive weed that grows everywhere in ‘disturbed soils,’” Benepe later emailed WSR. “The seeds are dispersed by the wind or by animals who ingest and excrete them. This is a result of creating a planting bed and not putting anything in and not maintaining it by removing weeds. You can find Jimsonweed all over NYC now.”

Benepe said the planting bed in question is under the jurisdiction of the NYC Department of Transportation. We reached out to them, but, in all fairness, it’s Sunday.

We’ll update you when they respond. In the meantime, don’t eat it!

ABSURDITY, NEWS, OUTDOORS | 27 comments | permalink
    1. Ish Kabibble says:

      The lengths people will go to slow bikers down! Sheesh! 😝🙄

    2. jhminnyc says:

      This plant is featured in the current 2nd season of “The Sinner” on Netflix. It’s used to make a tea that kills two people horribly. So do be warned.
      By the way, “The Sinner” is a great series.

      • Vladimir P. says:

        You write “It’s used to make a tea that kills two people horribly.”

        Dis is great news! It vorks mush betta than Polonium-210 (vich ve used on Litvinenko), duz not leave a trace, and iz mush less xpensive!

        I vill tell my old friends at FSB!

        Spasibo!

        • Mark P says:

          Hey Vladimir,
          Are you friends with Rat E. Tooey? I haven’t seen him in the comments section for a while. Actually I wonder if you might be his twin brother! ;^p

          • Vlad says:

            Re: “Actually I wonder if you might be his twin brother! ”

            Not twin-brother, but distant cousin…altho I AM the more handsome one !

            Cousin Tooey has been taking a short vacation, but should be back as soon as something captures his interest.

        • jhminnyc says:

          Well, the cops in the series picked up right away that the toxin was from the Jimsonweed growing not far away, so maybe it duz leave a trace. Then again, it’s only a TV show, albeit a good one.

    3. Chrigid says:

      I thought it looked too healthy and bushy and attractive to be on Columbus.

    4. Ben C. says:

      Can the Riverside Park Goats handle this bush?

    5. Jsmile says:

      I noticed one of those today and wondered what that was! Good to know!

    6. Kay McFadden says:

      Bit of overstatement by Adrian Benepe, soon to star in the cautionary video, “Planter Madness.”

      Here’s the real-real from the American Association for Clinical Chemistry:

      https://www.aacc.org/community/divisions/tdm-and-toxicology/toxin-library/jimson-weed

      • Filatura says:

        Definitely overstated. Daturas (and other plants in the nightshade family) are toxic but many varieties with big, fragrant flowers are widely sold as garden plants. If you don’t let your kids or your pets chew on it,or ingest the seeds, or use it as a hallucinogenic drug, there’s no need for panic. But invasive, yes: I’ve found it growing happily in my planters and, much as I appreciate good-looking weeds, I rip it out and trash it (wearing gloves), and that’s that until a bird drops another seed.

    7. Ethan says:

      The plant couldn’t possibly be as deadly as the bicyclists who pay no heed to traffic laws or people who get in their way.

    8. Diana says:

      The same plant is on 96th st between Amsterdam & Columbus ave! North side of the street

    9. Two years ago, someone planted these poisonous plants lower down on Columbus in all the pedestrian malls separating the bike lane, for several blocks. The Columbus Avenue BID got someone to remove them all. The plants grow very quickly, and are attractive, so it’s possible someone just doesn’t know their danger, though who really knows…

    10. Kathleen says:

      Apparently not as deadly as WSR or The Sinner would have us believe. According to the NIH it can be toxic, but is rarely deadly. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9274142

      If you don’t want to click on a link from someone you don’t know just google Jimson weed and it’s the first link that comes up.

      And, yes, the Sinner is a great show. 🙂

      • Carol Tannenhauser says:

        This is from WebMD:

        “Jimsonweed is UNSAFE when taken by mouth or inhaled. It is poisonous and can cause many toxic effects including dry mouth and extreme thirst, vision problems, nausea and vomiting, fast heart rate, hallucinations, high temperature, seizures, confusion, loss of consciousness, breathing problems, and death. The deadly dose for adults is 15-100 grams of leaf or 15-25 grams of the seeds.”

    11. Kathleen says:

      I just want to add that it is of the nightshade family, seeds most toxic and certainly not something to play with.

    12. David says:

      What the hell was going on at Trader Joe’s yesterday? I went twice and both times it was insanely busy. The second time the line to get in was down the block.

    13. Joey says:

      Why didn’t Benepe destroy it himself?

    14. Joey says:

      Good place to plant a tree.

    15. Daniel says:

      The spiny fruit capsules (containing seeds) are about the size of walnuts and may contain up to 700 black seeds. A single plant typically produces numerous fruit and thousands of seeds. The fruit may float away to disperse the seeds, cling to passing objects (like animals, agricultural products and machinery) or just split open to drop the seeds near the parent plant. I suspect the most common way the plants are spread in NYC is by movement of soil containing seeds.

    16. Kathy says:

      Not eating anything found on the street is excellent advice. On the other hand, does DOT have a gardening department? Publish a list of such places.
      Gardening volunteers to the rescue!Day lilies would go nicely in such a spot and require nothing but rain. Or a small late flowering shrub. Non-poisonous, of course….

    17. veggielover says:

      I’d like to know who the hell would randomly eat plants out of the median in the middle of NYC?

    18. TOM says:

      Why don’t you offer traveling directions while you’re advertizing this menace?

    19. Meanie Wesslock says:

      There was a rather large healthy one growing on 72 between Bwy /West End lats year. I haven’t looked this year to see if it’s still there but I did find it interesting how well it was doing, and that as a gardener I wouldn’t go near it.

    20. J.Huey says:

      There’s one on 102 just east of West End and another on 103 SE corner of West End.