Jatropha podagrica or Buddha Belly Plant

A couple of years ago, a friend gave my wife a small potted plant. The friend specifically said the plant was Ginseng and had medicinal properties. After hearing the word "medicinal", images of myself quietly sipping piping hot Ginseng tea in our garden quickly flashed my mind. =) I was a bit surprised and interested as I've never seen a living Ginseng plant. So I asked my wife to take care of it as it may help relieve our ailments, imagined or real, in the future.

The plant has since grown and a few weeks ago the plant bloomed and the flower was strange yet beautiful! (Click on the image below to enlarge.)


The plant has huge leaves, long stems and a bulbous trunk near the roots.



The strange appearance piqued my interest more and I just had to positively identify it.


The kind folks over at forums.gardenweb.com identified it as Jatropha podagrica, sometimes called Buddha Belly (what a cute name!) or Gout Plant. It is NOT Ginseng and its parts can be TOXIC (see below)..

So be forewarned. THE PLANT SHOWN ABOVE IS NOT GINSENG. Here is some addional information on Jatropha podagrica from toptropicals.com

Scientific name: Jatropha podagrica
Family: Euphorbiaceae
Common names: Gout Plant, Gout Stick, Buddha Belly, Guatemala Rhubarb, Tartogo
Origin: Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua

Jatropha (Gout plant) is an attention grabber and a must in every tropical garden. It has a large bottle-like caudex and huge leaves up to 10-12 inches in diameter. The more shade, the bigger the leaves. Great natural bonsai. Makes a good potted plant but can also be used as a conversation piece specimen in a small garden. This showy plant grows about 2-3 ft high, with a knobby, swollen stem and red flowers in large terminal clusters.



Partial sun and a well-drained soil are preferred. Propagation is by seeds, which are produced freely and germinate easily. When the seeds ripen, they burst open, so watch them to turn brown before you miss them jumping away! Seed pods will explode, launching the seeds several feet away.

This is a superb and rarely obtainable succulent plant that will be of great interest both to succulent lovers and those looking for a very different house plant. Gout plant is an attention grabber and one of the most exotic and weird looking tropical plants. It will catch everybody's eye and can become a centerpiece of a small garden.

This showy plant grows about 2-3 ft high. It has a knobby, grey-skinned, much swollen stem - a large bottle-like caudex, and huge three-lobed smooth waxy leaves are up to 10-12 inches in diameter. Pretty, brilliant scarlet coral-like flowers are in large terminal clusters. The flowers are are long-lasting, you will see them almost year round, more in the warmer months of the year. They will attract butterflies, too!

The Gout plant is treasured for its swollen "belly", it is a great natural bonsai. It makes a good potted plant but can also be used as a conversation piece specimen in a small garden.

Besides its cool looks, the great feature is - anyone can grow it! Jatropha podagrica is very easy to take care of. It requires well-drained soil, very little water and a sunny to filtered light location in a pot or in the ground in frost free areas. Does better with at least a few hours of sun. However, the less sun, the bigger the leaves will grow.

In the winter it will loose leaves but the coral red flowers will stay. Reduce the water in the winter and don't fertilize until the plant wakes up in the spring.

Propagation is by seeds, which are produced freely and germinate easily. When the seeds ripen, they burst open, so watch them to turn brown before you miss them jumping away! Seed pods will explode, launching the seeds several feet away.

The plant is used in pharmacology. Hexane, chloroform and methanol extracts of the rootwood and rootbarks of Jatropha podagrica were studied for their antimicrobial activity against 18 organisms. As many other plant of Euphorbia family, Jatropha plant parts can be toxic, especially seeds. Keep your eye on small kids and don't let them play with Jatropha seeds.



Go ahead, post your comment below!

Anonymous said...

I gave a small jatropha podriaca to a gardener friend. When I returned 6 years later, the plant was well over 5 feet tall.

Blackdove said...

Amazing. I didn't know they could grow that big.