J. Michael Mollohan wrote:
"What you have pictured in your article ... is not really a moonflower. The moonflower (Ipomoea alba) is a vine. See www.moonlightsys.com/themoon/flower.html for more information and a photograph.
"What your reader has is Datura inoxia, also known as thorn apple, the devil's weed, stinkweed and jimson weed. See www.tradewindsfruit.com/thorn_apple.htm. Technically jimson weed is Datura stramonium, but this plant has similar properties including a sizable proportion of neurotoxins. No part of this plant should be ingested by any living creature.
"As for care, it's an annual plant. The spiky pods are seed pods (especially high concentration of the scopolmine and belladonna in the plant). It will not do well in a pot inside for the winter. Instead, let the seed pods ripen and fall and leave them to germinate in situ until spring. Once you get it established, it will come back year after year.
"Ingestion of any part of this plant can cause hallucinations, disorientation, unconsciousness, sleeplessness, vomiting, diarrhea, blindness and death. Keep children, especially young ones who tend to put things in their mouth, away from this plant."
Another e-mail came in from Jennifer Goddard:
"While I can't give you technical details on moonflowers, such as their Latin name, they are wonderfully low-maintenance. My good friend gave me two plants as a housewarming gift 10 years ago.
"After the seed pods dry and the flowers quit blooming at first frost, I cut the stalks back to just a few inches above ground. I gather the seeds and share with friends. My moonflowers have tolerated the dry weather and are in a south-facing bed where they get sun from noon to sunset. They are highly fragrant night bloomers loved by butterflies, Luna moths and the occasional early hummingbird. With the windows open, we enjoy the scent all night. I stake my plants most summers, but not this year so slugs did a little cosmetic damage, but didn't slow the blooms. Japanese beetles seem to like the leaves, but I just knock them off into a cup of soapy water."
Reach Sara Busse at sara.bu...@wvgazette.com or 348-1249.