Rent Shop Volunteer Join

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Thursday - August 16, 2012

From: Brownsville, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives, Problem Plants, Shrubs
Title: Male or female Jatropha curcas from Brownsville TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

How do know the sex of a young Jatropha C. plant? how many weeks before you can tell a boy/girl plant ?

ANSWER:

Somewhat to our surprise there were several species of the genus Jatropha, a member of the Euphorbiaceae (spurge) family, native to North America. One that comes closest to your identification of Jatropha C. is Jatropha cathartica (Berlandier's nettlespurge). According to our Native Plant Database, it is endemic to Texas in North America, but also grows in Mexico. This USDA Plant Profile Map shows that it does grow in several counties in South Texas, including Cameron.

Our first question (never actually having heard of this plant before) was "What is Jatropha?" From the African Development Bank - Renewable Energy we found an article with that very title: What is Jatropha? It appears that the plant you are most likely asking about is Jatropha curcas, which is native to Central and South America, but has spread all over the world in tropical and sub-tropical climates. This USDA Plant Profile Map shows this plant has been introduced into Hawaii, Puerto Rico and Florida.

Since this is a non-native and out of our realm of plants native to North America, we are going to give you links to some websites to help you answer your own question. We are curious as to why you would want to propagate this plant? It can be invasive, it has serious toxicity, and isn't particularly attractive. Perhaps you're planning home production of biodiesel for the family car?

From General Biodiesel Jatropha curcas: Poison shrub or environmental savior?

Jatropha curcas

Wikipedia Jatropha curcas

Tropilab Inc. Jatropha Curcas - Physic Nut

Pictures

 

 

More Problem Plants Questions

Getting rid of Adams needle (Yucca filamentosa)
June 24, 2009 - My friend is changing her flower beds around and is wanting to eliminate an Adam's needle that has been there for several years. She has already dug it up and now is trying to get rid of all the new...
view the full question and answer

Controlling sedge in vegetable garden in Mississippi
August 03, 2008 - I have a veg. garden surrounded by Purple Sedge. The nut grass has been contained/eliminated by replacing all dirt 1' down. Now the surrounding sedge is beginning to creep inward infesting the gard...
view the full question and answer

Cat eating yucca stalks in England
May 07, 2013 - Is it safe for my cat to eat yucca as she is being sick and its hard to stop her
view the full question and answer

Giant Thistle-Like Plant from Elgin, TX
June 01, 2014 - I have a giant thistle like plant in my field we have been unable to identify. It looks like a milk thistle but it is short..only about a foot tall..stocky...and the flowers are giant..about 6 to 8 i...
view the full question and answer

Oak Sucker Reprise
May 02, 2015 - ----Original Question---- SUNDAY - JULY 06, 2014 Title: Live Oak Suckers Reprise, Austin TX QUESTION: Referring to an entry dated March 11, 2011 about Live Oak suckers - what happened to the su...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.