return to: checklist; keys; family Euphorbiaceae subfamily Crotonoideae

Jatropha curcas L.; physic nut

Shrub with milky latex; leaves alternate, simple, palmately lobed and veined; leaf lobes with acuminate apices; inflorescence axillary, a long-pedicellate cluster of several congested cymes; flowers greenish yellow, pistillate on early cyme branches, staminate ultimate cyme branches; fruit an explosively dehiscent capsule.

Additional images (photographed at UADY Veterinary School):

The oily seeds are well known for their purgative properties. Too many consumed raw can be poisonous, roasted, they are described as "well-flavored and edible" (Standley 1930). Branchlets inserted into the soil readily strike root, and consequently, the plant is often grown as a living fence.

Jatropha gaumeri, a close relative, can be distinguished by its unlobed, broadly cordate leaves.