Beauty in our National Parks often comes in microcosm, the small things you notice amidst the grand vistas. Though this photo comes from Joshua Tree National Park in California, I first discovered the Sacred Datura on my first trip to Zion National Park in Utah, and I immediately became fascinated with this beautiful desert flower. Long known to native tribes for its strongly hallucinogenic qualities, it was used in many native american ceremonial rituals, including spiritual challenges and “vision quests,” as well as for its medicinal qualities as an anesthetic. The visions its roots and seeds induce are often dark, sometimes deeply disturbing, and have been reported to stay with the user for days or longer. It is truly representative of the desert, beautiful on the surface, but extremely dangerous.
When closed, its blossoms resemble a pinwheel, or the aperture of a camera, and it’s this resemblance, along with its vision-causing abilities, that made me choose it as a symbol for my photography business. It’s my favorite flower, and it’s in full bloom throughout the southwest at this time of year. Get out and find one, and appreciate the beauty of this dangerous plant.