Jatropha curcas (PROSEA)

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Plant Resources of South-East Asia
Introduction
List of species


Jatropha curcas L.


Protologue: Sp. pl. 2: 1006 (1753).

Synonyms

Curcas purgans Medik. (1771), Curcas indica A. Rich. (1853), Jatropha afrocurcas Pax (1909).

Vernacular names

  • Physic nut, purging nut (En). Poughère, pignon d'Inde (Fr)
  • Indonesia: jarak kosta jarak pagar (general), balacai (Moluccas)
  • Malaysia: jarak belanda, jarak keling, jarak pagar (Peninsular)
  • Papua New Guinea: kadel, lam (Gunantuna, New Britain)
  • Philippines: tagumbau-na-purau (Iloko), tuba (Igorot, Bikol, Tagalog), tubang-bakod (Tagalog)
  • Cambodia: kuang, lohong
  • Laos: nhao
  • Thailand: ma yao (northern), sabuu dam, salot paa (central)
  • Vietnam: dầu mè, ba dậu nam.

Distribution

J. curcas probably originated from Mexico and Central America, but it was introduced long ago in all tropical regions and some subtropical regions like Florida and South Africa. It is cultivated throughout the Malesian region, though especially in the drier areas.

Uses

The seed oil is possibly the best known product of J. curcas applied as a cathartic, although application often leads to poisoning. Seeds themselves are also used as a cathartic, as well as an anthelmintic, and in the treatment of gout and skin diseases. They are often a source of poisoning, both in animals and humans. The latex is used as a vulnerary by the Malays. It is used to treat ear disease, toothache, eczema and scabies in Indonesia, as a styptic in India, and in Cambodia it is applied to sores and ulcers. The fresh, viscous juice flowing from the leaf stalks or stems is employed to arrest bleeding, and to treat ulcers, cuts and abrasions. It is said to promote healing by coagulating the blood and forming an airtight film when dry, resembling that produced by collodium. Furthermore, it is a successful local remedy for ringworm. Decoctions of leaves or roots are a good cure for diarrhoea and to treat polyuria, whereas a decoction of the leaves is also employed as a cough remedy. Leaves are applied to wounds and itches (Cambodia), as an antiparasitic to scabies, and as a rubefacient to treat paralysis and rheumatism (Indonesia). In India, crushed leaves are applied as a cataplasm to swollen breasts, and as a lactagogue. The bark is bruised and placed in the mouth as a cure for the bites of snakes or other animals. The bark is also used as a poultice for sprains and dislocations. In Goa, the root bark is applied externally for rheumatism. The fresh stems are used as toothbrushes, to strengthen the gums, and to cure bleeding, spongy gums or gum boils. The juice may kill fish, and can also be applied for stupefying them while hunting (the Philippines). In arid and semi-arid regions J. curcas is commonly planted as living fence and for erosion control. A dark blue dye from the bark has been used in the Philippines for colouring cloth, fishing nets and lines. The oil is used for the manufacture of candles and soap and as fuel for cooking, whereas the seed-cake is applied as fertilizer.

Observations

  • A somewhat succulent shrub or small tree up to 5(-8) m tall with pink latex, bark smooth, shiny, greenish-brown or yellowish-grey, peeling off in papery scales.
  • Leaf blade broadly ovate in outline, usually shallowly (3-)5(-7)-lobed or occasionally not lobed, 7-14(-18) cm × 5.5-14(-18) cm, shallowly to deeply cordate at base, sparsely puberulous along the veins below at first, otherwise glabrous, petiole (3-)10-15(-20) cm long, glabrous.
  • Inflorescence subcorymbose, peduncle up to 5(-7) cm long; male flowers with ovate calyx lobes about 2 mm long, petals fused in lower half, about 3 mm long, greenish-yellow, stamens 10, in two whorls of 5; female flowers with about 4 mm long calyx lobes, petals about 6 mm long, staminodes present, stigmas bifid.
  • Fruit broadly ellipsoid, 2.5-3 cm × 2 cm; seeds about 1.7 cm long, black, with minute caruncle.

J. curcas frequently escapes from cultivation and may become naturalized. It grows on well-drained, well-aerated soils and is well-adapted to low fertility. It may be found on rocky slopes, dry river beds and similar habitats, from sea-level up to 1700 m altitude.

Selected sources

122, 190, 202, 284, 287, 332, 338, 418, 573, 580, 690, 899, 984, 1010, 1128, 1135, 1178, 1187, 1380, 1400, 1409, 1500, 1525, 1571.

Authors

S. Susiarti, E. Munawaroh & S.F.A.J. Horsten