Unusual Houseplants: Jatropha Podagrica

Now this is certainly one unusual houseplant. If you can’t quite get the hang of the Latin name, you may prefer to use one of Jatropha Podagrica’s various common names, such as Buddha’s Belly plant or bottle plant. Particularly as it’s easy to spot their origins as references to the swollen base of the plant’s trunk-like stem.

Jatropha Podagrica is a tender succulent perennial from Central America and the West Indies so, as you might expect, it doesn’t do cold weather, preferring a temperature that doesn’t fall much below 10C, so it makes an ideal specimen for the conservatory or windowsill. It’s an undemanding plant, too, tolerating a fair degree of neglect, as a bit of a water once a week or so is all it needs in the growing season, with an occasional feed to keep it happy. In winter, when it will drop its shiny lobed leaves but carry on flowering, it can be virtually ignored.

It’s a curiosity, certainly, with that swollen little trunk, but it is possessed of a certain beauty. The leaves are relatively large, glossy and attractively shaped, and they come in succession from the top of the stem, like some strange little palm tree. And the flowers are very striking, a vibrant shade of coral red, held on little stalks that can themselves also have a reddish tinge. Perhaps the best bit is that the flowers are produced pretty much 12 months of the year, even when the plant is leafless in winter. Now that makes for an unusual sight.

In former times the fruits of Jatropha Podagrica were eaten for their laxative effect, hence one of the other common names of purge nut. We suggest you avoid testing their efficacity and stick to more modern medication.

Jatropha Podagrica is available to buy from the Paddock Plants website using this link.

Rob & Joanna – November 2017

 

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