Plant Known for Hallucination Causes Consternation; City Chooses Remediation

The deadly hallucinogenic plant that flowered inside a concrete pedestrian island on 93rd Street and Columbus Avenue was ripped from its roots on Monday — but not before it briefly went viral on the Internet.

The jimsonweed, or Datura stramonium for Latin speakers, was first spotted by former NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, who told West Side Rag that it is toxic when consumed in even small amounts. With Trader Joe’s and Mani Market so close by, it’s hard to imagine anyone eating the plant, but sometimes people want a snack to munch on while waiting in those long Trader Joe’s lines. Also, dogs eat things.

After we alerted the Department of Transportation on Sunday, workers came out on Monday to get rid of the plant. Underneath it were a few small sad plants, apparently deprived of sun by the shadows from the poisonous bush. The sign in the middle appears to be from “Love Your Street Tree Day”.

The city did not know the plant’s origins, but plans to investigate. Benepe says Jimsonweed is often spread by the wind or animals who eat and poop it out.

“The City removed the plant today,” a DOT spokesman wrote. “DOT did not plant here and does not handle plantings at these pedestrian refuge islands. We are checking records for any local entity that has offered to maintain the area in the past.”

ABSURDITY, NEWS, OUTDOORS | 20 comments | permalink
    1. BillyNYC says:

      It would be nice if someone just clean up the entire mess instead of just pulling weeds out…clear it all out and put some mulch in there / no class.

      • Al says:

        There’s an enormous one in the middle of the block on 96th between Amsterdam and Columbus on the north side of the street. My neighbor called 311 when she learned it was poisonous about a month ago. 311 told her to call Parks and Rec who told her to call someone else. No one from the city was willing to follow-up.

      • Joey says:

        They just sent the plant puller out. There’s 3 or 4 more civil service titles to get it cleaned up and planted

    2. Billy Amato says:

      Hey Mr. Mayor that’s has a fantasy of being president… not going to happen…

      WHERE ARE THE TREES THAT ARE SUPPOSED TO BE PLANTED THERE!!!!!!!

    3. geoff says:

      Kάνναβις, for Greek speakers, might be a safer, healthier replacement.

    4. Le Con O'sewer says:

      Re: “these pedestrian refuge islands”

      HUH?? “Pedestrian refuge islands” !!
      Does that mean that, as we barely-surviving pedestrians tremble waiting for the light, we’ll be offered warm jackets and coffee?

      As for the coffee, please no gut-rot!
      Nothing less than “Hacienda La Esmeralda” and/or “Black Ivory Coffee”…definitely NOT Starbux.

    5. Diana Leddy says:

      Please ask the city to remove the one on 96th st between Amsterdam and Columbus ave. It’s huge! Already called 311 but nothing is being done to remove it.

      • Wendi Paster says:

        Sorry I am late to this. I will write to DOT about the ones on 96th. I wrote about the other one.

        Also, as for what’s left at 93rd looks to me pretty good, considering. A little water and cleaning up and I bet those plants will be happy to be taken care of!

    6. Carriecas says:

      This headline is NY Post-worthy.

    7. Adina says:

      I believe there’s one next to PS 84 at 92nd between Columbus and CPW.

    8. Eleanor P Seepes says:

      This also grows on the south side of West 96th Street between CPW and Columbus

    9. aer says:

      Jimson weed was also in a tree pit on Amsterdam and 82 earlier this year; I called 311 and in a few days, the plants were gone.

    10. 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.

    11. TR says:

      Datura grows wild elsewhere in the cityand is hardly a threat, but I am puzzled why you didn’t “report” the psychotropic coleus shown stll growing in your photos.

    12. sam says:

      Robert Beverley’s 1706 “History and Present State of Virginia” tells how the Jamestown colonists used jimson weed to incapacitate a squad of redcoats during Bacon’s Rebellion.
      https://www.laphamsquarterly.org/intoxication/miscellany/hallucinogens-and-bacons-rebellion

    13. Daniel says:

      New Yorkers have documented over 200 Jimsonweed from all five boroughs and posted them to iNaturalist, a
      non-commercial community science program. See the distribution map here….

      https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?page=2&place_id=674&taxon_id=55854

    14. Ira Gershenhorn says:

      As comments show, this plant is all over the place. This particular location is allegedly maintained by Broadway Malls. I say allegedly because they really don’t do anything at all, but want your money. They or someone else have totally discouraged unpaid community gardeners from maintaining these areas so I’d characterize the whole brouhaha as a big nothing.

    15. Wendi Paster says:

      Last night I passed on to NYC DOT the locations of the other plants that people mentioned in comments. They replied to me this morning “We will inspect.” So I am sure that will result as the other notification did, to the swift removal. Go Westside RAG TEAM!