Bellyache Bush

This strange little plant, with a woody stem and three-lobed leaves which are red when new and turn green with age, has been popping up in my backyard. Out of curiosity, I googled it, and found it hiding in a forum post on Dave’s Garden: this is Jatropha gossypiifolia, also known as the bellyache bush, black physicnut or cotton-leaf physicnut.

With a name like bellyache bush, you can guess that every part of this plant is poisonous to ingest, so obviously I’m pulling these otherwise benign decorative flowering shrubs before my dogs can figure out if they like eating them or not. However, I noticed in the forum post that people had been given these plants as “baby coffee trees”, including instructions on how to collect and brew the seeds! That seemed pretty much a bad idea all round, so here is my identification post with leaf photos, and a note that if you have been given one of these plants as a “baby coffee tree”, it’s probably best not to brew up any part of it.

Like everything on earth, this is native to somewhere else (Mexico, the Philippines, South America, the Caribbean) but has cheerfully invaded Florida and obviously grows wild here (hence these “volunteers” in my backyard).

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