Jatropha is a genus of flowering plants in the spurge family, Euphorbiaceae. The name is derived from the Greek words ἰατρός (iatros), meaning "physician," and τροφή (trophe), meaning "nutrition," hence the common name physic nut. It contains approximately 170 species of succulent plants, shrubs and trees (some are deciduous, like Jatropha curcas). Most of these are native to the Americas, with 66 species found in the Old World. Mature plants produce separate male and female flowers. As with many members of the family Euphorbiaceae, Jatropha contains compounds that are highly toxic.
In 2007 Goldman Sachs cited Jatropha curcas as one of the best candidates for future biodiesel production. It is resistant to drought and pests, and produces seeds containing 27-40% oil, averaging 34.4%. The remaining press cake of jatropha seeds after oil extraction could also be considered for energy production. However, despite their abundance and use as oil and reclamation plants, none of the Jatropha species have been properly domesticated and, as a result, their productivity is variable, and the long-term impact of their large-scale use on soil quality and the environment is unknown. Igbinosa and colleagues (2009) demonstrated potential broad spectrum antimicrobial activity of J. curcas.
The stems of haat (Jatropha cuneata) are used for basketmaking by the Seri people in Sonora, Mexico. The stems are roasted, split and soaked through an elaborate process. The reddish dye that is often used is made from the root of another plant species, Krameria grayi. Spicy jatropha (J. integerrima) is cultivated as an ornamental in the tropics for its continuously blooming crimson flowers. Buddha belly plant (J. podagrica) was used to tan leather and produce a red dye in Mexico and the southwestern United States. It is also used as a house plant.
The oil from Jatropha curcas is mainly used as biodiesel for energy. The cake can be used for fish or animal feed (if detoxified), biomass feedstock to power electricity plants, or as biogas or high-quality organic fertilizer. It can also be used as a bio-pesticide and for medicinal purposes. When crushed, the resulting oil from the seeds can be processed to produce a high-quality biodiesel that can be used in a standard diesel engine.
Much like other members of the family Euphorbiaceae, Jatropha plants contain several toxic compounds, including lectin, saponin, carcinogenic phorbol, and a trypsin inhibitor. The seeds of this genus are also a source of the highly poisonous toxalbumin curcin. Despite this, the seeds are occasionally eaten after roasting, which reduces some of the toxicity. Its sap is a skin irritant, and ingesting as few as three untreated seeds can be fatal to humans. In 2005 Western Australia banned Jatropha gossypiifolia as invasive and highly toxic to people and animals.
- Jatropha acanthophylla Loefgr.
- Jatropha bullockii E.J.Lott
- Jatropha cardiophylla (Torr.) Müll.Arg. – Sangre de Cristo
- Jatropha cathartica Terán & Berland. – Berlandier's Nettlespurge
- Jatropha chamelensis Pérez-Jiménez
- Jatropha costaricensis G.L.Webster & Poveda
- Jatropha cinerea (Ortega) Müll.Arg. – Arizona Nettlespurge
- Jatropha cuneata Wiggins & Rollins – Limberbush, Haat (pronounced [ʔaːt])
- Jatropha curcas L. – Physic Nut, Piñoncillo, Habb-El-Melúk
- Jatropha dioica Sessé – Leatherstem
- Jatropha elliptica (Pohl) Oken
- Jatropha excisa Griseb.
- Jatropha gossypiifolia L. – Bellyache Bush
- Jatropha hernandiifolia Vent. – Wild Oilnut
- Jatropha integerrima Jacq. – Spicy Jatropha
- Jatropha macrorhiza Benth. – Ragged Nettlespurge
- Jatropha multifida L. – Coralbush
- Jatropha nudicaulis Benth.
- Jatropha podagrica Hook. – Buddha Belly Plant, Bottleplant Shrub
- Jatropha unicostata Balf.f.
Formerly placed here
- Aleurites moluccana (L.) Willd. (as J. moluccana L.)
- Baliospermum montanum (Willd.) Müll.Arg. (as J. montana Willd.)
- Cnidoscolus aconitifolius (Mill.) I.M.Johnst. (as J. aconitifolia Mill.)
- Cnidoscolus angustidens Torr. (as J. angustidens (Torr.) Müll.Arg.)
- Cnidoscolus quercifolius Pohl (as J. phyllacantha Müll.Arg.)
- Cnidoscolus stimulosus (Michx.) Engelm. & A.Gray (as J. stimulosa Michx.)
- Cnidoscolus texanus (Müll. Arg.) Small (as J. texana Müll.Arg.)
- Cnidoscolus tubulosus (Müll. Arg.) I.M.Johnst. (as J. tepiquensis Costantin & Gallaud and J. tubulosa Müll.Arg.)
- Cnidoscolus urens (L.) Arthur (as J. urens L.)
- Hyaenanche globosa (Gaertn.) Lamb. (as J. globosa Gaertn.)
- Manihot esculenta subsp. esculenta'' (as J. dulcis J.F.Gmel. and J. manihot L.)
- Manihot carthagenensis subsp. carthagenensis (as J. carthagenensis Jacq.)
- Manihot tripartita subsp. tripartita (as J. tripartita Spreng.)
- Adenorhopium Rchb.
- Adenoropium Pohl
- Castiglionia Ruiz & Pav.
- Collenucia Chiov.
- Curcas Adans.
- Jatropa Scop., orth. var.
- Loureira Cav.
- Mesandrinia Raf.
- Mozinna Ortega
- Zimapania Engl. & Pax
- "Genus: Jatropha L". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 2007-10-05. http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/html/genus.pl?6189. Retrieved 2010-08-13.
- Heller, Joachim (1996). Promoting the Conservation and Use of Underutilized and Neglected Crops Volume 1: Physic Nut, Jatropha Curcas L.. Bioversity International. p. 7. ISBN 9789290432784.
- Jatropha Plant Gains Steam In Global Race for Biofuels
- Achten WMJ, Mathijs E, Verchot L, Singh VP, Aerts R, Muys B 2007. Jatropha biodiesel fueling sustainability?. Biofuels, Bioproducts and Biorefining 1(4), 283-291. doi:10.1002/bbb.39The Jatropha Archives
- Achten WMJ, Verchot L, Franken YJ, Mathijs E, Singh VP, Aerts R, Muys B 2008. Jatropha bio-diesel production and use. (a literature review) Biomass and Bioenergy 32(12), 1063-1084. doi:10.1016/j.biombioe.2008.03.003The Jatropha Archives
- Jongschaap REE, Blesgraaf RAR, Boogaard TA, Van Loo EN, Savenije HHG. The water footprint of bioenergy from Jatropha curcas L. Proc Nat Acad Sci USA 106(35)E92. doi:10.1073/pnas.0907272106
- World Agroforestry Centre (2007) When oil grows on trees World Agroforestry Centre press release. 26 April 2009.
- Igbinosa OO, Igbinosa EO and Aiyegoro OA (2009) Antimicrobial activity and phytochemical screening of stem bark extracts from Jatropha curcas (Linn). African Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology Vol. 3(2). pp. 058-062
- MacIntyre, Ben (2007-07-08). "Poison plant could help to cure the planet". London: The Times. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/article2155351.ece. Retrieved 2008-06-09.
- "Species Records of Jatropha". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/html/splist.pl?6189. Retrieved 2011-03-19.
- "Jatropha". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. http://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=28330. Retrieved 2012-07-09.