Scientific Name:
Jatropha gossypifolia
Flower Color:
pastures, open woodlands, waterways, riverbanks, roadways

Geographical Distribution

Bellyache bush distribution - United States

Bellyache Bush

Jatropha gossypifolia

Cotton leaf physic nut, Black physic nut, Red fig-nut flower, wild cassava, purging nut
6/ 10
Bellyache bush (Jatropha gossypifolia) is an erect, highly toxic, annual woody tropical or sub-tropical perennial. It is considered an invasive weed in many areas. J. gossypifolia looks similar to the castor oil and physic nut plants. It has leaf stalks covered with coarse dark brown hairs and the young leaves are sticky. It produces purple flowers and capsular fruits which contain three tiny brown seeds. There is a large variation in flower color.

All parts of bellyache bush are poisonous, however, the seeds are most toxic. The main toxins include purgative oil and curcin. Curcin is similar to ricin, the toxic protein of the highly toxic castor oil plant (Ricinus communis).


  • appetite loss
  • diarrhea
  • dilated pupils
  • elevated heart rate
  • death


PHYSICAL CONTROL: Hand-pull entire plant, including the roots. Appropriately dispose of plants and other reproductive materials and wash hands thoroughly.

FIRE CONTROL: High kill rates using fire have been achieved in the field if there is a sufficient fuel load to carry a fire through a bellyache bush infestation.

BIOLOGICAL CONTROL: Repeated slashing of infested areas helps reduce density.

CHEMICAL CONTROL: One biological control agent, the jewel bug Agonosoma trilineatum, was released for bellyache bush but it probably has not established. Investigations for new agents are being made.