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Wild tobacco, also called Nicotiana rustica and mesquite, comes from plants of the genus “Nicotiana” that are frost tolerant and grow in the southwestern United States and Mexico, as well as in Texas and parts of Arkansas, Louisiana and Missouri, Missouri. It is also native to other parts of the world.Tree tobacco grows large and tall, almost tree-like with its large bluish-green waxy leaves and yellow tubular flowers. This South America native is now found along the flood beds of streams, along trails, and the least hospitable arid wasteland areas all over the southwestern and western United States. It is also readily cultivated in gardens, especially by people who grow them, because the yellow tubular flowers attract hummingbirds. The ovoid leaves are entire (not toothed), glabrous (not hairy), bluish green, and alternately arranged. The leaves of the new young plant are extremely large, sometimes up to two feet in length, although the average length of a leaf is approximately six inches. As the plant matures, the leaves become much smaller — from one inch to three inches.
According to Edward K. Balls, author of Early Uses of California Plants, “Smoking was really more a ‘cult,’ particularly among the tribes of the lower Klamath area. In the Karok economy, smoking was not practiced for pleasure but always for some definite end: as a part of the day’s routine, or as a rite prescribed by the tribal customs.” During my field trips with school children, one will invariably ask, “How can you smoke this tree tobacco if eating it will kill you?” I tell them that eating the plant kills you within a few hours, whereas smoking it kills you slowly.Other Nicotiana Glauca Uses: A dense tea brewed from the tree tobacco leaves can be used as an insect repellent and can be sprayed directly onto roses, vegetables, and animal pens and cages. This works great to get rid of aphids. Cook an ample concentration of fresh leaves in water in a big (covered) pot until there is a brown tea. Let cool, then strain and spray on your plants. You might wish to add a biodegradable liquid detergent to the tobacco tea so it will better adhere to the foliage.
Wild tobacco tree (Solanum mauritianum) is very similar to potato tree (Solanum erianthum) and relatively similar to devil's fig (Solanum torvum). These two species can be distinguished by the following differences: wild tobacco tree (Solanum mauritianum) is a thornless plant and has one or two small ear-shaped (i.e. auriculate) leaves at the base of each leaf stalk (i.e. petiole). Its star-shaped flowers have purple or violet coloured petals (sometimes with a small white stripe) and its leaves have entire margins.potato tree (Solanum erianthum) is a thornless plant and does not have any ear-shaped (i.e. auriculate) leaves at the base of each leaf stalk (i.e. petiole). Its star-shaped flowers have white petals and its leaves have entire margins.devil's fig (Solanum torvum) has thorny stems and does not have any ear-shaped (i.e. auriculate) leaves at the base of each leaf stalk (i.e. petiole). Its star-shaped flowers have white petals and its leaves usually have slightly lobed margins. Note: For a more in-depth key to distinguish between all of the solanums (Solanum spp.) present in eastern Australia, see the online key to the Solanum Species of Eastern Australia at http://delta-intkey.com/solanum/index.htm. (Source: weeds.brisbane.qld.gov.au)