Under The Jakfruit Tree

Today’s topic is about three members of the Euphorbiaceae Family (The Spurge Family). Euphorbia is the biggest genus in this family, but today focuses on the little known Cnidoscolus genus and the better known Jatropha genus.

First let’s focus on Cnidoscolus aconitifolius, the Chaya or Tree Spinach shrub. It is native to the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. It is used as a leaf vegetable in Mexican and Central American cuisines similar to spinach, thus its common name. Unlike spinach, Chaya leaves must be cooked before being eaten. In South Florida however, I believe the main reason to grow this plant is its excellent nectar source for honey bees and butterflies.

Along the lines of nectar sources, are two Jatrophas. Jatropha podagrica (The Gout Plant) and Jatropha integerrima (Peregrina Tree or Spicy Jatropha). Both with bright red flowers which tend to draw in Monarch Butterflies to their flowers. While Jatropha integerrima is a small tree which by the way blooms year-round, Jatropha podagrica is a smaller plant, which can attain a height of 3-4 feet over time with a swollen caudex for moisture storage during times of drought. This feature is very popular with collectors of caudiciform plants. Like all members of the Euphorbiaceae Family, their seed pods explode, sending seeds several feet from the mother plant, and seedlings are very commonly found all around the plant.

Richard Lyons Nursery has all three of these plants in stock.

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