Jatropha curcas

Common Name: barbados nut 
Type: Tree
Family: Euphorbiaceae
Native Range: Tropical America
Zone: 9 to 11
Height: 15.00 to 20.00 feet
Spread: 10.00 to 15.00 feet
Bloom Time: Seasonal bloomer
Bloom Description: Yellowish green
Sun: Full sun
Water: Dry to medium
Maintenance: Low
Flower: Insignificant
Tolerate: Drought

Culture

Winter hardy to USDA Zones 9-11 where it is easily grown in dry to medium well-drained soils in full sun. Tolerates average to poor soils. Tolerates drought. Plants will self-seed and have the potential to spread.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Jatropha curcas, commonly called purging nut, Barbados nut or physic nut, is a dioecious small tree or large shrub that grows to 20’ tall. It is native to Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean, but has been widely planted throughout the tropics for a number of commercial uses, perhaps now most predominately for production of biofuel. Maple-like, 3-5 lobed, pale green leaves (to 6” wide) are cordate at the bases. Yellow green flowers bloom in spring. Branches have smooth gray bark and exude watery white latex when cut. Flowers give way to green seed pods, each with 2-3 oily black seeds. Pods mature to yellow-red before splitting open to release seeds. Seeds are inedible, but contain oil that may be used to make candles, soap and biofuel. Harvested seed may be pressed for production of biodiesel. Each square mile of plants can reportedly produce 2,000 barrels of oil per year. The oil content of each seed ranges from 30-40%. Cakes remaining after pressing can be further used for producing biogas and fertilizers. Purging nut is a member of the spurge family and closely related to castor oil plant (Ricinus communis).

Genus name from the Greek words iatros meaning physician and trophe meaning food in reference to the edible seed (in very small quantities) of some species.

Problems

No known serious insect or disease problems. Plants are considered to be weedy, particularly in uncultivated lands.

Garden Uses

Oily seeds are used to make a variety of products ranging from candles to biofuel to fertilizers. Flowers, stems and leaves have medicinal properties. Plants have been used as living fences in some areas.