Friday, May 20, 2011

Jatropha gossypifolia

Jatropha gossypifolia is a flowering plant grown more for the foliage than the flowers. The new growth is a deep purplish-red color. As the leaves mature, they turn green. The plant is always in a state of growth, so the colorful foliage is always present. The growth habit is upright to a height of 5-6 feet.
Flowers are smallish, and brick red, appearing in clusters on new growth. Leaves are 3-5 lobed. One of the most interesting features is that the leaf margins, veins, and petioles are covered with hairs topped by a sticky gland.

Sometimes known as Bellyache bush, Jatropha gossypifolia is native to Central and South America, and the Caribbean. It is a tropical plant recommended for USDA Zones 10-11, so it won't tolerate a lot of cold. In areas with brief freezes, the plant dies back to the ground and comes up again when the weather warms. They'll often reseed themselves too, so one way or another you'll probably get some to come back if you live in a subtropical climate. In northern Australia, this species has escaped cultivation and is classified as a noxious weed.
This species has a watery sap, but the sap is not a skin irritant like that of other Jatrophas. In fact, the sap has been used for generations in Nigeria as a haemostatic agent to stop bleeding. The fluid is applied directly to bleeding nose, gums, or skin. A study done at the Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospitals in Nigeria confirms its effectiveness and safety. The research findings were published in the Journal of Medicinal Plants in 2007.
The leaves are also applied to boils, carbuncles, eczema, and itches.
Disclaimer: Medical uses are listed for informational purposes only, and may not be appropriate for all people.


Sheila O said...

I have had this plant growing in my SW FL yard since we bought our house 23 years ago. I've never tended it, it just grows happily every summer. Any information I've ever found has stated that all parts are inedible. I'm very happy to see it has medicinal value! Love your blog!

Grower Jim said...

Thanks, Sheila! Excellent testimony about how easy this plant is to grow! Many plants that are considered poisonous have some uses in folk medicines.


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