The short summer nights are starting to get longer, again, and the chorus of dog-day cicadas joins the fireflies. Farmers' markets are ripe with tomatoes, corn and green beans. School supplies fill the aisles at Walgreens.
Now, too, the moonflowers unfurl in their evening glory, white flowers in moonlight, beauties of the night garden.
Moonflowers can refer to several different night-blooming plants with white flowers. Two of them, Ipomoea alba and Datura inoxia are the most commonly found here.
Though the plant grows best in full sun, it may not set buds and bloom until early autumn, as the nights grow longer. Overcast days and cool nights can extend the blooming period.
It is usually grown from seed. You can find it in garden centers or seed catalogs. The seed resembles a small, brownish nut, and should be nicked with a file and then soaked overnight before planting.
Datura inoxia is a shrubby plant that typically reaches a height of 3-6 feet. It has velvety, fuzzy-textured leaves, and produces spikey yellow-green seed pods.
It is grown as an annual here, but it can reseed itself readily, and can be quite a dramatic, low-maintenance plant.
Datura is also called Devil's Trumpet and Sacred Datura. It was used in initiation rituals by the Aztecs for its mind-altering properties. Don't try this yourself! All parts of the plant are toxic to humans and animals.
But it's the scent of moonflowers that is really quite intoxicating--some say lemony, some describe it as clean and fresh, a mix of freesia and gardenia, sweet and intense, while others compare it to White Diamonds, Elizabeth Taylor's signature perfume.
The large white flowers and seductive fragrance of moonflowers are also attractive to the night moths, hawk moths and sphinx moths, that come to pollinate them.
Moonflowers by moonlight---and giant moths---the stuff of summer dreams.....
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