The Q&A Archives: Composting Datura

Question: I have several large datura plants which I have been told are poisonous. If I compost them is it safe to add the finished matter to my vegetable garden? How is the toxin broken down?

Answer: Datura is a member of the Nightshade Family. Species of Datura have long been used by native peoples of the Southwest in puberty and other ceremonies because of the plant's halucinogenic alkaloids. People trying to imitate Native American ways have often poisoned themselves, sometimes fatally. Sacred Datura is a colloquial name for the species Datura metaloides.

The toxins in datura, while dangerous when ingested directly, should not be taken up as a poisonous chemical by another plant, any more than using composted tobacco leaves would not result in nicotine uptake by a plant to which the compost is applied. I suspect that microbes in the soil are the main factor in breaking down such compounds.

Thanks for the question!

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