Nicotiana rustica | Ceremonial Tobacco ‘Midewiwan’
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’s a large number of members of the Nicotania family and many 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 ‘Midewiwan’ is an heirloom varietal and is a much stronger variety.
Nicotiana rustica goes by many common names, including Rustic Tobacco, Ceremonial 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 ‘Midewiwan’, 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%).
Ceremonial tobacco is considered a sacred plant by almost all Native American tribes that were able to grow this plant from the Amazon forests to the North American prairies. N. rustica was widely used in ceremonies, often without inhaling. N. rustica was used for both medicinal and ceremonial purposes, often as offerings to animist spirits or conduits for communing with local deities. When smoked, it is both deeper and earthier than N. tabacum, which was prized for its sweet, fragrant leaves. It was used to treat bruises, sprains, infected wounds, and even baldness. Folks also ingest it by chewing, snuffing, or using it as an enema. Archeological research has found evidence of the plants use several thousand years ago. Insecticidal spray for your gardens can also be made that takes care of aphids, mites, and whiteflies.
It’s a warm-weather annual, completing its life cycle in one season, and then re-seeds freely. 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. Plants stay short with green leaves and small phosphorescent bell-shaped yellow flowers.
This tobacco variety is often referred to as Sacred Tobacco, but its been said that when something’s ‘for sale’ it shouldn’t be called ‘sacred’, so we choose to use ‘ceremonial’ instead.
Sun exposure: Full sun
Mature height: 12-24 inches
Mature width: 12-18 inches
Hardiness zones: 10-11