Sacred datura, Escalante, Utah
Of all the things I saw on my first trip into the Escalante, this was the most magical. We arrived at our last camp, one afternoon late in the 12-day backpacking trip. My partner, Andie, noticed this datura, evidently very close to blooming and she predicted correctly that these two flowers would unfurl that night. The datura has many names: moonflower, jimson weed, thornapple, sacred datura, datura meteloides, and probably others. It is one of the three sources of psychedelic drugs used by the sorcerer Don Juan in the Carlos Castaneda books. Ingestion is not recommended: the fatal dose is only double the effective dose. An unusual woman once told me that she had eaten some to investigate its effects and had come to, some two days later, a couple of miles from her clothes. I believed her. The plant is often pollinated by bats and has a sickly sweet smell. Each part of it is poisonous. The wife of an assistant superintendent of Grand Canyon National Park swore to me that, while on a raft trip through the Canyon, she and several others witnessed a datura flower unfurl and open fully within fifteen seconds of the first rays of the full moon striking it! I felt very strongly, that were I to approach this plant too quickly, I might be struck by lightning from a clear sky. Big, black carpenter bees were collecting pollen from the huge flowers. One went down inside the tube of one flower, and when it was followed by another, a great buzzing ensued. Finally, the flowers settled down, and I made the single exposure. By noon, they had withered. The image of the sandstone became redder, as the relatively fugitive E-3 process transparency lost cyan dye contrast in dark storage. Though it took several tries to finally get a first rate drum scan of the chrome, once digitized, the fading stopped. I've retained some of that color shift in my preferred rendition.