All the best plants are from South America, so it sometimes seems, and Jatropha Podagrica is certainly one of them, at least in our humble opinion. It's known as the Buddha's Belly plant and a quick glance at its little trunk with its rounded swollen base will clear up the reason behind that straight away. Caudex is the technical term, in case you were wondering. As you might reasonably assume, the enlarged area is used to store water and so this plant won't require a lot of watering. The leaves that spray out from the top of the stem are lobed and shiny dark green, with older leaves dropping off as new ones are produced, so losing the odd leaf is not a matter for concern. Among them are little stems bearing clusters of vivid coral red flowers, very striking and produced throughout the growing season, so Jatropha Podagrica is a colourful sight for much of the year before going dormant (and leafless) in the winter. Tender, so suitable as a houseplant. Bright position but not too much direct sunlight. Well drained soil. 24 to 36 in. Do not ingest. 13cm pot.
Another common name is purging nut, which refers to the former use of the seed pods as a laxative treatment. Podagra is the medical term for gout and Jatropha Podagrica is also known as the gout plant, though we are not sure if this refers to the swollen base of the stem or another old medical application. If anyboidy knows the answer to that, do please release us from our ignorance!
Caring for your Jatropha Podagrica is straightforward. Given a light position, a weekly light watering is all that's needed from spring through to autumn (with an occasional dash of plant food) and no water once leaves drop for a period of winter dormancy. The odd flower may still appear in winter, which can look a bit odd! In winter the temperature can be cool but not cold, so around 10C and above is fine.
There are some other Jatropha species around, and you may have heard of Jatropha Curcas, which was in the headlines a while back when it was seen as a possible future energy source in the form of biodiesel. It seems it wasn't the holy grail it was hyped up to be, and we are not running our vehicles on jatropha quite yet.
Jatropha Podagrica is a tender succulent perennial with a swollen trunk, glossy lobed leaves and coral red flowers suitable for growing as a houseplant.
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