Jatropha gossypiifolia (PROSEA)

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Plant Resources of South-East Asia
List of species

Jatropha gossypiifolia L.

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


Jatropha elegans (Pohl) Klotzsch (1853).

Vernacular names

  • Cotton-leaved physic nut (En)
  • Indonesia: jarak kosta merah (general), jarak ulung (Lampung, Sumatra), kaleke bacu (Kangean)
  • Malaysia: jarak beremah, jarak hitam, jarak merah (Peninsular)
  • Philippines: lansi-lansinaan (Tagalog), tagumbau-a-nalabaga (Iloko), tuba-tuba (Panay Bisaya, Cebu Bisaya)
  • Laos: nhao luat
  • Thailand: sabuu daeng (central), sabu lueat, salot daeng (peninsular)
  • Vietnam: dầu lai tiá.


J. gossypiifolia is native to tropical America from Mexico to Paraguay and the West Indies. It has been introduced as an ornamental elsewhere in tropical America and many parts of the Old World tropics, especially West Africa and Malesia, and regularly escapes from cultivation.


Seeds of J. gossypiifolia are used as a cathartic. The Madurese use them after roasting, as a purgative for adults. The seed oil may be useful in treating leprosy. The latex from the leaves is applied on the tongue of babies to cure sores. In general, the latex is used externally to cure ulcers. It also has molluscicidal properties. In the Philippines, a cataplasm of fresh leaves is applied to swollen breasts. Leaves are also employed as a febrifuge in intermittent fevers, or boiled and used in a bath to cure fever. A decoction of the leaves is given as a purgative, as a stomachic, in the treatment of ear and venereal diseases, and as a blood purifier. Externally, leaves are applied to boils and carbuncles, eczema and itches. The roots are employed against leprosy, and a decoction of the bark is used as an emmenagogue.


  • A small, somewhat succulent shrub up to 3 m tall.
  • Leaf blade deeply 3-5-lobed, 6-20 cm × 7-22 cm, base cordate, lobes broadly ovate to obovate, margin denticulate, with coarsely stipitate glandular hairs, petiole (2.5-)4-8(-14) cm long, sparsely to densely set with coarse glandular hairs.
  • Inflorescence opposite a leaf, cymose, glandular hairy.
  • Male flowers with elliptical-lanceolate to ovate, about 2.5 mm long calyx lobes, petals free, about 3.5 mm long, purplish-red, stamens 8(-12), outer ones shorter than inner ones, filaments partly united; female flowers with calyx and petals as in male flower but twice as large, staminodes absent, stigmas capitate, bifid.
  • Fruit 3-lobed, roundish, about 1 cm in diameter.
  • Seeds about 7.5 mm long, pale greyish-brown, with a multifid caruncle.

J. gossypiifolia may be locally common in drier regions along roads, on waste places, in lawns, scrub vegetation, generally at low altitudes. In Asia all plants are referred to as var. elegans (Pohl) Muell. Arg. which differs from var. gossypiifolia in having denticulate and glandular-ciliate leaf margins.

Selected sources

83, 97, 122, 202, 284, 287, 332, 338, 618, 1128, 1135, 1178, 1187, 1380.


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