The Decadent Datura

Datura metel in bloom

Datura metel in bloom

Poisonous plants are an unhealthy draw.  Oleanders and Daturas are high on my list of flowers to be grown with caution. They’re death to the cat if she’s foolish enough to gnaw at the branches, but my cat is a wise cat, and has become an indoor cat since we moved, which seems to be ok by her.  I think I can grow Datura next summer, and say, isn’t Datura that old Jimson Weed  we grew up regarding as nothing in particular?  Well, actually yes, yes it is, and liable to seed itself as far North as Boston. What I wonder is so exclusive and delicate about that?

I think of Jimson as being a Mark Twain plant, something to lay hold of at midnight and conjure to rid you of warts, kind of like spunk water. The reason most people grow the Jimson Weed is for its large downward facing trumpet flowers and their scent which is very strong particularly after sunset.  They are real vespertine garden plants, releasing their narcotic perfume after dark and while some

Datura in bloom.

Datura in bloom.

people find it a soapy scent others liken it to the smell of lilies, the plants that fester worse than weeds according to Shakespeare. One has to wonder what he would have thought of Daturas? He probably didn’t know them as they are native to Cuba.

The kind of Jimsons most of us grow are different from the horrible old weed, they can grow as far south as Mexico, and used to be known as Datura meteloides.  They are patio plants meant to be grown in containers and if you look at specialists like Logees,

A heliotrope note in Datura?

A heliotrope note in Datura?

you’ll find they still sell the old Datura metel in a double white form with a strong perfume.  The plants can grow to be really big in a single season up to five feet across, and the undersides of the leaves are furry, some people say actually fuzzy.

If you love perfume then you’ve long ago noted the existence of  Serge Lutens perfume dedicated to the Datura, namely Datura Noir.  It was matched by another early attempt at Datura by Maitre Parfumier et Gantier, the cozier and less femme fatale Secrete Datura.  The first of these two reminded me of a contemporary version of Narcisse Noir.  It had the thin slightly poisonous acidity of tone which makes you think you are wearing a toxic perfume, and when you deal with the Datura you’re probably correct.  A few gardeners have been

Or a soap note?

Or a soap note?

known to put them on a porch to discourage mosquitoes at night, and though I don’t know what their success rate is, I would not be surprised to find that Datura works as well as citronella candles.

Secrete Datura by contrast with its heliotrope vanilla and chocolate notes is a harmless gourmand of a scent. Then there is a Datura Blanche by Keiko Mecheri which once again tries to recreate Datura by putting tuberose, vanilla and heliotrope together to yield a Datura-ish accord.

Only Ineke Ruhland had the idea of using the angel’s trumpet in a new and impressive manner.  Evening Edged in Gold bypasses the whole soap, heliotrope and tuberose

Evening Edged in Gold

Evening Edged in Gold

vanilla crowd in favor of a much more sophisticated after hours party.

Her variation on Datura starts with osmanthus and plum and features Datura as a heart note along with cinnamon and saffron, then she displays the whole dark  and dapper party against blue and inky backgrounds of leather and burnt sugar. This finally yields a scent which while it may not give you a Datura soliflor does  include the Datura scent in a genuine composition which sets it off.  Here at last is the seducer’s friend, the sort of thing that really would not work by daylight.  But like Datura, does very well after dark.

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8 thoughts on “The Decadent Datura

  1. I really like Datura Noir – it reminds me quite a bit of the old DVF Tatiana and Escada Margaretha Ley, with the white flowers and the coconut.

    Datura tends to grow in weed-choked areas around here – not really anywhere I’m wandering around after dark, to be honest, so I don’t think I’ve ever smelled the flowers in full nocturnal beckon. (The cattle know enough to stay away from it. I’m not sure about the dog, however, so I don’t think I’ll push the limits by trying to grow it any time soon… so far, he’s tried to eat just about anything I would regard as edible and quite a few things that I wouldn’t.)

    I did not like Evening Edged in Gold. Well, no, I must ‘splain: I liked it in a dabber sample, and then purchased 10ml in a split, only to find that when it’s sprayed on, it is unbearably harsh and chemical, with a back-of-the-throat rasp that really troubles me. I’ve come to find this effect in every Ineke fragrance I’ve tried, so these days I just don’t bother with them.

    • I’m just about to write about Narcisse Noir which was what Datura Noir reminded me of in the first place, and that (NN) depends very heavily on which version you find but same story as DN: white flowers, seduction, honey, overflowing tropicality and a slight suggestion of poison…
      It’s not surprising that DN smells like Escada, there was that time in the nineties when BWFs were having a moment, and Datura Noir was part of that. The original bottle was very elegant sort of urn shaped with figures carved on the side, very man trappy in a classic way.

      Evening Edged in Gold DOES have that dry raspy chemical thing going on. It reminds me of Francis Kurkdijian’s Absolue Pour le Soir with fruit that Ineke.

      BTW did you read about the Kurkdijian rose project? He was working with a hybridizer to create a new rose for fragrance commerce one with a strawberry lychee note. Sounds quite delicious.

      • Actually I think I’ve confused the Secrete Datura bottle with the SL one which was the standard issue Lutens rectangle…I did like the original SD bottle…

  2. I was only aware of SL Datura Noir, which I like well enough. No, I tell a lie – I had heard of Angel’s Trumpet the perfume by Ineke, but didn’t realise it was another name for the flower! Or that datura also features in Evening Edged in Gold. I also had no idea datura was poisonous, not that I am likely to be growing it in my garden. A very informative post all round. ;)

    • Angel’s Trumpet I remember now you mention it, was one of those little perfumes Ineke released in that adorable book format ( with covers) and I hope EEIG doesn’t go out of commerce because together with Field Notes From Paris and Gilded Lily it was one of her best.

      Yes, don’t grow Datura with a kitten about, my daughter would read you the riot act. She thought your prospective new kitten too cute, and she’s a kitten connoisseur.

  3. Illamasqua’s perfume, Freak, is meant to have all kinds of dangerous and exotic flower scents in it, including Datura, so it smells perfectly pleasant, of course! I do wonder how it compares with the varieties of Datura you mention?

    • Goodness you’re right, they’ve got everything including belladonna in there! This is one time I’d be glad to forgo naturals, but anyway the other perfume daturas seem to be tuberose, vanilla, and something a bit sweet and noxious. The actual daturas I think have this strong sweetness in flower that is kind of like a narcotic jasmine with a bit of oleander thrown in beautiful but I did notice the moths kept their distance :-)

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