Nicotiana rustica | Ceremonial Tobacco ‘Mohawk’
There are over 65 species of Tobacco that hail from Australia, North America, and tropical South America. They are attractive plants with beautiful flowers and appealing foliage. All of them have tubular or trumpet-shaped flowers that come in nearly every color and most often open during the evening and and nighttime hours, sometimes releasing a pleasant fragrance. They can be used as specimen or bedding plants, in borders, woodland gardens, in containers, or for planting in masses or even as a focal point.
There are many members of the Nicotania family and various different applications to use them, but today only two species are prominently used for smoking and chewing: Nicotiana tabacum is the species that dominates the tobacco industry and is what most of us think about when we imagine tobacco. The other, Nicotiana rustica ‘Oneida’, is an heirloom smoking varietal and is a much stronger variety.
Nicotiana rustica goes by many common names, including Rustic Tobacco, Ceremonial Tobacco, Smoking Tobacco, Sacred Tobacco,Wild Tobacco, Indian Tobacco, Turkish tobacco, Shamanic Tobacco, Erowid Tobacco, and Aztec Tobacco. It’s an old variety that has been cultivated in the Amazon for thousands of years. Nicotiana rustica was the original tobacco that was planted as far north as North America, but do to its commercialization, N. tabacum eventually became more profitable as its smoother, less harsh quality lent to people being able to smoke more of it. This variety, N. rustica ‘Mohawk’, is extremely potent, often containing up to ten times the amount of nicotine than a standard leaf of N. tabacum. N. Rustica (9%), Nicotania tobacum (1-3%).
Nicotiana rustica was used in ceremonies for both medicinal and ceremonial purposes, often as offerings to animal spirits or conduits for communing with local deities. It was used to treat bruises, sprains, infected wounds, and even baldness. When smoked, it is both deeper and earthier than N. tabacum. Folks also ingest it by chewing, snuffing, or using it as an enema.
‘Mohawk’ Rustica is a warm weather annual native to Central America and was widely cultivated by Native Americans and grown through out the southern US. Growing to 3′ in height, they are vigorous in growth, and fairly hardy. Similar to Aztec tobacco, but with less branching. The leaves are thick and dark green in color. They are among the largest of any Rustica variety. The abundant, pale-yellow blossoms bloom for an extended period and make a great choice as an annual planting in the flower beds. Insecticidal spray for your gardens can also be made that takes care of aphids, mites, and whiteflies.
The best results are usually achieved by sowing seeds indoors 6-10 weeks before last frost, but can be sown outdoors in spring after the last frost too. Sprinkle seeds on to soil and tamp down lightly. Do not cover tiny seeds. Grows best in full sun in average, well-drained soil. Will tolerate light shade. These do exceptional in areas with short growing seasons.
N. rustica is commonly called Sacred Tobacco, but it has been said that when something’s ‘for sale’ it should not be called ‘sacred’, so we use ‘ceremonial’ instead.
Sun exposure: Full sun
Mature height: 12- 24 inches
Mature width: 12-18 inches
Hardiness zones: 10-11