En EspaŅol

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?


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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
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


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


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




More Non-Natives Questions

Freeze damage to non-native Alocasia portei in Alice, TX
February 15, 2010 - Alocasia portei family (I think). I have a palm type plant with finger-like broad leaves that grows its "palm like leaves" at the end of a curving trunk. These leave I trim back as new ones grow in...
view the full question and answer

Does non-native Crown of Thorns cause cancer?
August 24, 2013 - Does the plant, Corona De Cristo (Crown of thorns) cause cancer?
view the full question and answer

Non-native Ruellia brittonia in Raleigh NC
August 23, 2009 - I have discovered Mexican Petunias this year. I LOVE THEM! Beautiful plant. However, they are so tall and after a rain are leaning badly. Should I tie them back? Will they get stronger as they ma...
view the full question and answer

Why is Common Horehound missing from NPIN?
March 27, 2014 - Hi there, I am not able to find Marrubium vulgare, i.e. Common or White Horehound, in the Native Plant Database. It grows abundantly on our ranch in Central Texas, and I am attempting to grow i...
view the full question and answer

When will non-native Confederate Jasmine bloom in Austin
March 03, 2014 - I have 2 large Confederate Jasmine plants growing in 3 gallon pots on either side of an arbor I built for my friends wedding. The wedding is in 1 month and I'm wondering if this jasmine typically bl...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center