Backyard Datura

It’s probably safe to say that I’ve photographed Datura wrightii extensively and there would be no need to photograph it any further… but by the gods, their beauty is simply astonishing, and hard to resist — even more so when they’re flowering in the backyard. :)

I collected some seeds two years ago, and spread them. And then nothing happened (not unexpected when trying with seeds). And then this year, two seedlings came out, and not at all in the place where I remembered that I had originally spread the seeds (this might be a case of birds taking part in the relocation of those seeds… or simply a bad memory).

One of the seedlings was so close to another shrub that I decided to relocate it, and both of the plants seemed to be doing okay… until the winter rains fell way short of what they should have been, this year. As temperatures increased, I began to water them, and I’m still watering them — daily!

Not exactly something that you’d expect you have to do with a native plant that is perfectly adapted to the region and grows in abundance here but well… backyards aren’t exactly the most natural, native environments, and the soil where it grows is bone dry and bare. I figured that, since Datura wrightii is a perennial, I’d try to help them through this first year and when we hopefully get a more normal wet season of 2021/2022, they’ll make it on their own next year. We’ll see.

This morning, the first flower bud finally opened, and in its pure, clean and immaculate state, it demanded to be photographed, of course. And then the marine layer spread a few sprinkles, rather interesting for this time of the year, and a few water drops landed on this perfect flower… which lead to more photos. By noon, the flower had already wilted. I don’t think they’re that fragile and ephemeral normally so I was very glad that I had photographed it.

More about what went into these below.


  • The first photo is a focus stack rendered with Helicon Focus: four photos, each at f/16 with our 105mm macro lens and, because there was a light breeze, ISO 800;
  • the second image is a single exposure with the 105mm at f/8, also ISO 800;
  • the third is the most complicated one, a focus/depth-of-field mix, manually blended in Photoshop: three individual images made with our old 50mm/1.4 lens — one exposure @ ISO 100 and f/1.4 for maximum background blur; one exposure @ ISO 100 and f/2.8 to eliminate the haloing on the flower’s fringes that occurred at f/1.4 (it’s an old lens!), and one exposure @ ISO 800 and f/16 for the flower itself, to have the raindrops, texture and anthers/pistil in focus. :)

Maybe we’ll get some more flowers. I’ll keep watering.

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10 thoughts on “Backyard Datura”

  1. These are beautiful photographs – such pristine loveliness. The mystery and magic of Datura!

  2. Yes, keep helping them…you’re right, the yard isn’t exactly the same as the places they normally grow in. I see the same thing here. Anyway, what a terrific thing to have the Datura come up unexpectedly and to enjoy them close to home. I don’t think you can photograph them too much – these studies are just gorgeous. All are beautiful and the last one is exquisite. What a complex process you went through and all the effort was worth it.

  3. Absolutely beautiful work, Alex. I’m glad you have these growing so near by and hope they establish themselves. Before reading the making-of section I was wondering how you possibly achieved that depth of field and look. I love the look of the powdered pollen resting on the petal.


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