Devil's Snare (Datura stramonium)

Common Names: Devil's Snare, Jimsonweed, Datura

Hermione: "Devil's Snare, Devil's Snare...what did Professor Sprout say?
- it likes the dark and damp"
Harry: "So light a fire!"
Hermione: "Yes - of course - but there's no wood!"
Hermione: "Oh, right!"
From Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling

Harry, Ron, and Hermione battling with Devil's Snare in the film version

Scientific Classifications
Plantae- Plants
Tracheobionta - Vascular Plants
Spermatophyta - Seed Plants
Magnoliophyta - Flowering Plants
Magnoliopsida - Dicotyledons
Solanaceae - Potato Family
Datura L. - jimsonweed
Datura stramonium - jimsonweed

Datura stramonium, commonly known as Datura and nicknamed Devil's Snare, is a plant found in the Solanaceae family. It is most often called a weed, and it is used for its medicinal properties, but in dosages higher than those prescribed, it can be fatal to humans. It is native to the Americas but can be found all over the world, except for extremely cold Arctic regions. Datura's ideal habitat and climate consists of sandy flats, plains, arroyos, and in disturbed soils.[1]

Although the two plants share a similar name, the Devil's Snare in Harry Potter and the Devil's Snare of our world share little in common. As seen in the video clip, the Devil's Snare in Harry Potter is a strangling plant that lives in dark, damp places and attempts to kill people. The Devil's Snare of our world fortunately does not try to kill us purposely, nor does it live in dark, damp places. However, the two are similar in that they are deadly to humans under certain circumstances, but once they are understood and learned about, you can avoid a rather nasty fate.

Physical Characteristics

Devil's Snare is a large plant, covering almost as much territory in height as it does in width. The plant usually reaches a height of three feet and can cover about the same area width-wise. The root is very thick and has a whitish color, while the stem also has a thick girth and is a pale yellowish-green color and splits often, creating the wide breadth. The leaves are 4 to 6 inches long and are relatively angular. It is a flowering plant and produces about 3-inch long flowers. They are typically white or pale pink in color and has five points.

Datura also produces capsules that are about the size of a walnut and are covered all over with sharp spines. When they're ripe, these pods will split at the top and expose a multitude of black seeds that get dispersed as the plant's method of reproduction.[2]

Meet the Relatives

Datura flower
Devil's Snare is a member of the Solanaceae family, commonly known as the Deadly Nightshade family. Other prominent members of the Nightshade family include Mandrake, Belladonna, and common plants like potatoes, tomatoes, and bell peppers.
The Solanaceae family in comprised of about 3000 species of which many are native to the central and south Americas. This family does best in these climates; with plenty of rainfall and a consistent temperature, there are few irregular weather movements that would disturb the plants. The Solanaceae family is very varied: its species include potatoes, several fruit-bearing vegetables like tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers, ornamental plants like petunias, as well as plants with edible leaves and strictly medicinal plants.[3] "
Members of the family are characterized by solitary or clustered flowers with sepals and petals, five in number and fused; five stamens; and a superior ovary (i.e., one situated above the attachment point of the other flower parts), composed of two fused carpels (ovule-bearing segments) and obliquely placed in the flower upon a basal disk of tissue. The style (upper end of the ovary) is simple and bears a two-lobed stigma, the pollen-receptive surface. The flowers are usually conspicuous and are visited by insects."[4]

Magical Usage

Professor Sprout and students
In the Harry Potter series and the greater magical world of JK Rowling, Devil's Snare is similar to its real-world counterpart, as both species are deadly to humans, although in different ways. In the Harry Potter series, Devil's Snare makes its first appearance in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone when Harry, Ron, and Hermione attempt to find the Sorcerer's Stone. Each professor has set up a protection against those who are attempting to steal the stone, and the first level of defense is from Professor Sprout, the Herbology professor who plants Devil's Snare. In the book version, Harry and Ron fall into it and are at once enveloped in its strong roots. The plant acts to suffocate the three, but Hermione, who has not fallen in, creates a strong light and heat source, as Devil's Snare is averse to the daylight and warmth.[5]
In the film version, all three friends fall into the Devil's Snare, and this time the only way to avoid being suffocated by the plant is to relax. By not struggling and not attempting to fight the plant off, it will release you. However, Ron does not understand the concept of relaxing, and continues to fight the plant. Hermione then produces a magical heat and light source to banish the plant.[6]
In the fifth book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, there is a patient in St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries named Mr. Bode who is strangled by Devil's Snare. It was delivered as a gift to his bedside in the hospital, and upon touching it, it immediately strangled him.[7]

Muggle Usage

The term "muggle" is used in the Harry Potter series to describe someone who has no magical blood, someone such as ourselves! Datura has many uses, the most important being medical. Every part of Datura is poisonous, and no boiling or any manipulation of the plant can obliterate its poisonous properties. That said, there are many uses for it in the medical world, and taken in the correct amounts, the plant is not fatal. Datura is now currently used to treat asthma, gastrointestinal problems, aches, and arthritis, among other things. Datura is an anodyne (a pain killer), an antibiotic, an antispasmodic (relieves spasms), and a narcotic. Like other leafy plants, Datura can be smoked and used as a drug, but again, in any quantity that exceeds the limit, Datura can be fatal to humans.[8] Use of Datura is discouraged for people taking medicine, people who have heart problems, people on antidepressants, or people with glaucoma.[9]

Geographic Distribution

As mentioned before, Datura can be found worldwide, especially throughout the Americas.

Distribution map of Datura stamonium


On this day in history....

Datura is also widely known for its hallucinogenic properties. Datura, along with nearly every other drug plant imaginable, are certainly not a new happening. Stories come down to us from different periods in history where men and women such as ourselves might have stumbled upon a new plant in a new world and experimented a little bit. This story, told by Robert Beverly in The History and Present State of Virginia (1705), provides a nice anecdote of what happens when Datura is not exactly used for medical purposes.
"In 1676, British soldiers were sent to stop the Rebellion of Bacon. Jamestown weed (jimson weed) was boiled for inclusion in a salad, which the soldiers readily ate. The hallucinogenic properties of jimson weed took affect.
The soldiers presented "a very pleasant comedy, for they turned natural fools upon it for several days: one would blow up a feather in the air; another would dart straws at it with much fury; and another, stark naked, was sitting up in a corner like a monkey, grinning and making mows at them; a fourth would fondly kiss and paw his companions, and sneer in their faces with a countenance more antic than any in a Dutch droll. "
"In this frantic condition they were confined, lest they should, in their folly, destroy themselves - though it was observed that all their actions were full of innocence and good nature. Indeed they were not very cleanly; for they would have wallowed in their own excrements, if they had not been prevented. A thousand such simple tricks they played, and after 11 days returned themselves again, not remembering anything that had passed."[11]


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  5. ^ Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, by J.K. Rowling
  6. ^ Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Warner Bros.
  7. ^ Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, by J.K. Rowling
  8. ^ Type the content of your reference here.
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