Kampala Tree and Palm Directory

Tree Species
Common Name
Tree Description
Tree Uses

English: Physic Nut, Coral plant, Coralplant nettlespurge, Spanish physic nut, Spanish physic-nut, Coral bush, Jatropha Tree, Guatemala rhubarb, Small physicnut, French Physic Nut Bush, French physicnut, Purging nut.

+ Tree Species

Jatropha multifida

+ Tree Family

Euphorbiaceae

+ Ecology

Jatropha multifida is native to the West Indies and naturalizes in southern Florida, South-west Texas, Mexico and southwards to Brazil, but widely planted as an ornamental in Africa and in many tropical and subtropical countries and often persistent after cultivation. Physic nut is a plant of semi-arid regions in the tropical lowlands, though it can be grown in moist regions so long as there is excellent drainage. It prefers a position in full sun, but also succeeds in partial shade. It succeeds in most well-drained soils and established plants are somewhat tolerant of drought as well as maritime exposure. In Kampala, this tree can be found within Mulago precinct. 

+ Description

Jatropha multifida is a glabrous, eglandular, succulent-type, evergreen or deciduous shrub or small tree, which grows 1.5 to 3 m tall, but occasionally as high as 5(-6) metres. It is cultivated in many tropical gardens for true beauty of its scarlet flowers and round strongly incised leaves. The flowers appear in bunches during the summer.

BARK:The older stems are relatively thick (up to 8 in diameter) and either somewhat succulent or softly woody with a smooth grey or brownish bark with raised lenticels, but green in the young new growth. Branch-lets are thick that exude a copious milky or clear caustic, poisonous sap if cut or damaged.

LEAVES:alternate, simple, deeply palmately-lobed, roundish in outline borne on long petioles near the tips of the branches. Blade 15-30 cm long and broad bright green above, glaucous beneath; petiole 10-20 cm long, subtended by a distinctive multifid (fringed) stipule to about 1.5-2 cm long, the segments setaceous. Lobes 7 to 12 long-acuminate and prominently veined; the larger of which may reach up to 20 cm in length and 9 cm in width, may also be toothed or dissected into narrow, pointed segments and confluent into a narrowly cordate basal disk; lateral nerves numerous. They are very similar to the leaves of some species of Manihot. 

FLOWERS:small bright-red borne in a long-stalked dense corymbiform to subcapitate, flat-topped inflorescence up to 25 cm long arising from the top of the main stem and often held high above the foliage. Male and female flowers are in the same branched cluster, petals coral-red, and sepals not petal-like. The flowers do not all open at once, so the cluster looks red for a considerable time. 

FRUITS (capsules):Bright yellow, consistently trilocular to pyriform 1.5-4 cm long and wide narrowing at the base, truncate or depresse at the apex, the lobes slightly keeled smooth and green when young, turning yellow, and becoming almost black at maturity, slowly dehiscent to sub drupaceous; each capsule usually contains 3 seeds.

+ Uses

Edible: Tuberous roots. http://tropical.theferns.info/viewtropical.php id=Jatropha+multifida

Medicine: Seed, latex, roots, leaves. http://tropical.theferns.info/viewtropical.php id=Jatropha+multifida

Agroforestry: Jatropha multifida is widely grown, often in hedges, for its ornamental foliage and flowers.

The seeds contain around 30% of non-edible oil that can be used for illumination.

+ Propagation

Semi hardwood cuttings, seed.

+ Management

Fast growing, pruning, watering, application of fertilizer.

+ Remarks

The seeds are strongly purgative, have a nutty flavour and there are records of fatalities from eating them. A single one is sufficient to produce violent illness. The red inflorescence is in great demand by florists as it makes beautiful red corsages. All parts of the plant are poisonous. The plant may be used as a fish poison.

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