Black Physicnut

Black Physicnut


Jatropha gossypiifolia (Bellyache Bush)

Jatropha gossypiifolia (Bellyache Bush) is a much-branched, somewhat succulent, deciduous to evergreen shrub up to 10 feet (3 m) tall…

Plants→Jatropha→Bellyache Bush (Jatropha gossypiifolia)

General Plant Information (Edit)
Plant Habit:Shrub
Life cycle:Perennial
Sun Requirements:Full Sun
Minimum cold hardiness:Zone 10a -1.1 °C (30 °F) to +1.7 °C (35 °F)
Plant Height :6 feet
Plant Spread :3 feet
Leaves:Unusual foliage color
Flower Color:Red
Flower Time:Spring
Late spring or early summer
Late summer or early fall
Suitable Locations:Xeriscapic
Uses:Provides winter interest
Medicinal Herb
Toxicity:Other: all parts are toxic.
Propagation: Seeds:Sow in situ
Other info: very easy from seed. Seeds are also used as Biofuel.
Propagation: Other methods:Cuttings: Stem
Cuttings: Tip

The sap from this plant is used in traditional medicine as an anticoagulant, and for various aches and pains.

This is considered invasive in many areas. It spreads very easily from seed.

MSU Extension

When establishing vegetable gardens near black walnut trees, select juglone-tolerant vegetables and plant in raised beds with barriers that prevent walnut roots growing into the bed.

All parts of a black walnut tree contain juglone, including leaves and fruits.

The vegetable gardening season will soon be starting. One of the considerations for siting a new vegetable garden is its proximity to black walnut trees (Juglans nigra). As a gardener with numerous black walnut trees in my yard, I have learned over the years there are quite a few plants that don’t coexist happily with black walnut. Black walnut always wins. It exudes a chemical called juglone from its roots into the soil that is toxic to many other plants and kills them, thereby reducing competition for resources. Juglone is also leached into the soil from rainwater coming in contact with fallen walnut leaves, branches and decaying fruits. Plants located beneath the canopy of walnut trees are exposed to the highest concentration of juglone, but the roots extend well beyond the dripline of the tree and may affect susceptible plants at a distance about equal to the height of the tree.

Juglone can be toxic in very low doses. Removing an offending walnut tree from the prospective garden area won’t really take care of the problem because plants sensitive to walnut toxicity can still be affected by decomposing roots of a walnut cut down several years prior just by growing near a remaining chunk of walnut root. It is next to impossible to remove all the root pieces from the soil, and remaining pieces may continue exuding toxins for several years as they decay. Symptoms of plants succumbing to toxicity from black walnuts includes wilting, yellowing of foliage and death. Studies conducted to determine the effects of juglone found that it inhibits plant respiration, resulting in lack of energy for susceptible species to take up water and nutrients.

What can a gardener who is determined to plant a vegetable patch near walnut trees do?

When establishing a garden around a walnut tree, Michigan State University Extension suggests planting species that are tolerant to juglone. Fortunately, there are a number of vegetables that will tolerate juglone, including lima and snap beans, beets, corn, onions, garlic, leeks, parsnip, carrots, cauliflower, soybeans, parsley, Jerusalem artichoke, melons and squash. Avoid planting vegetables that are sensitive to juglone, such as asparagus, cabbage, eggplant, peas, peppers, potatoes, rhubarb and tomatoes.

Raised beds with barriers of wood, stone or concrete in the bottom limits the growth of walnut roots into the bed, but don’t forget to keep the beds free of walnut debris such as leaves, hulls and seedlings. Avoid using walnut wood or bark as mulch around sensitive species.

This article was published by Michigan State University Extension. For more information, visit To have a digest of information delivered straight to your email inbox, visit To contact an expert in your area, visit, or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).

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Bellyache bush ( Jatropha gossypiifolia ) can be confused with physic nut ( Jatropha curcas ) and castor oil plant ( Ricinus communis ). These species can be distinguished by the following differences:

  • bellyache bush ( Jatropha gossypiifolia ) has leaves that are deeply divided into 3-5 pointed lobes (i.e. they are palmately lobed) and covered in sticky hairs (i.e. glandular pubescent). The small flowers have five red petals and are borne in small branched clusters. Its fruiting capsules are usually bright glossy green and sometimes sparsely hairy (i.e. sparsely pubescent).
  • physic nut ( Jatropha curcas ) has leaves that are shallowly divided into 3-5 rounded lobes (i.e. they are palmately lobed) and hairless (i.e. glabrous). The small flowers have five greenish-yellow petals and are borne in small branched clusters. Its fruiting capsules are usually dull yellow and hairless (i.e. glabrous).
  • castor oil plant ( Ricinus communis ) has leaves that are usually divided into 7-9 pointed lobes (i.e. they are palmately lobed) and hairless (i.e. glabrous). Separate male and female flowers (both lacking petals) are borne together in large elongated clusters (8-15 cm long), with the male flowers below the female flowers. Its immature fruiting capsules are densely covered in soft blunt spines, but are hairless (i.e. glabrous).

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Jatropha Species, Bellyache Bush, Black Physicnut, Cotton-Leaf Physicnut


Water Requirements:

Sun Exposure:


Foliage Color:




USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 °C (10 °F)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 °C (15 °F)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 °C (20 °F)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 °C (25 °F)

USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 °C (30 °F)

USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 °C (35 °F)

USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 °C (40 °F)

Where to Grow:

Grow outdoors year-round in hardiness zone

Can be grown as an annual


Seed is poisonous if ingested

All parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:

Bloom Characteristics:

Bloom Size:

Bloom Time:

Other details:

May be a noxious weed or invasive

Soil pH requirements:

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:

From seed direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting:

Bag seedheads to capture ripening seed

Allow pods to dry on plant break open to collect seeds

Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored


This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:

Fort Lauderdale, Florida(2 reports)

Zephyrhills, Florida(2 reports)

Saint Helena Island, South Carolina

Gardeners' Notes:

On Aug 20, 2020, Heart2heart60 from Lakeland, FL wrote:

I live in Lakeland fl 9a and the bellyache is doing wonderful. Love the colors of leaves and the flowers. It grows in the ground and part shade. No disappointed.

On Aug 17, 2013, TropicalPam from Cooper City, FL (Zone 10b) wrote:

I love the purple in this plant and mine just bloomed cute little flowers :) I just read that this plant is carnivorous. Anyone know anything about that. is it the sticky hairs on the stems that get the bugs. Like a sundew plants. I love carnivorous plants so I love this one even more now LOL. I keep mine in a pot so it doesn't spread.

On Dec 7, 2011, digforrestdig from West Palm Beach, FL wrote:

I always called this plant a coffee plant, but I had a feeling it must of been something else. Every1 seems to adore this plant, I like it as well as it has a very cool look.

On Jul 15, 2011, claireblair from St Eustatius,
Netherlands Antilles wrote:

We have these growing wild in the Caribbean and we call them Pondu. They have traditionally been used here for skin conditions such as bites and stings. Today in fact one of my volunteers that works for me in the Botanical Gardens got stung by a Yellow Jacketed Hornet and I gave him some Pondu. It takes the pain away really quickly and it's a very painful sting!

On Jul 11, 2011, Z4golfer from Houston, TX wrote:

Beautiful plant, but a weed, nevertheless! It shoots its seeds all over the place. It kind of sounds like caps being struck and the next thing, it is a hurling seeds through the air. I have been pulling this plant for 4 years and I still get one occasionally peeking its head through the mulch. I prefer a Jatropha tree over this plant that was originally given to me.

On Apr 13, 2011, Anjana from Delhi,
India wrote:

this plant grows in my delhi and rajasthan homes in india. in soil it can become a medium sized tree. i keep it outside my kitchen as my former housekeeper treated a deep cut from a knife to his hand with sap of this plant. it immediately stopped the spurting blood flow.

On Jun 5, 2004, IslandJim from Keizer, OR (Zone 8b) wrote:

I first got one of these plants at a plant sale at the local cactus and succulent society. It was planted on the clubhouse grounds and I noticed it had seeded itself around. So I decided to keep it in a pot on the patio. It has not seeded itself anywhere in the 3 or 4 years I've had it. I really like the look of it.

On Aug 29, 2003, palmbob from Acton, CA (Zone 8b) wrote:

I love trying to grow Jatrophas in So Cal, and this is one that did better than expected. It turned into a gorgeous little tree about 3' tall and with 30+ little twisted branches. sort of like a big bonsai tree. Then it produced lots of little flowers and the next thing I know it's everywhere. It is a very easy weed to pull up, but it has become a weed, nontheless. And it's a really sticky, gooed plant to prune. It also doesn't take watering heavily in the winter (the main plant rotted about 4 years after growing). but LOVES water in the summer (got a 3' tree from a seed in just 1 growing season). and more weed spread from there. The garden is now hopeless inundated with this Jatropha, and though I still like it's looks, don't really want it everywhere. Careful when planting t. read more his in a warm climate.

On May 31, 2003, MotherNature4 from Bartow, FL (Zone 9a) wrote:

This is a container grown plant but lives outdoors in central Florida. It dropped some leaves when the temperature got down to 32 for a short time. It quickly recovered, and is blooming now (May and June).

On May 30, 2003, Monocromatico from Rio de Janeiro,
Brazil (Zone 11) wrote:

Very beautiful plant. It grows spontaneously in an abandoned area near my home. The contrast between the purple leaves and green fruits is something special. It grows in aired, a bit salty and poor soil, I don't know if it does well in other conditions, though. It has glands all over its body and around the leaves (which has also a hairy texture)

Watch the video: Bellyache Bush - रतनजत Ratanjoti - Do not eat the fruits of this plant ever.