Bellyache Bush
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Bellyache Bush
ative Photo: Thingnam Girija
Common name: Bellyache Bush, Cotton-leaf physic nut • Hindi: रतनजोती Ratanjoti • Manipuri: ꯏ ꯍꯤꯗꯥꯛ Ee hidak • Tamil: சிறிய ஆமணக்கு Siria Amanakku • Malayalam: Chuvanna Kadalavanakku • Kannada: ಚಿಕ್ಕಕಾಡಹರಳು Chikka kada haralu • Bengali: Lal bherenda
Botanical name: Jatropha gossypiifolia    Family: Euphorbiaceae (Castor family)

This is a container grown plant but lives outdoors. It is often confused with castor oil plant (Ricinus communis) It grows spontaneously in abandoned areas. The contrast between the purple leaves and green fruits is something special. This bush has beautiful foilage The new leaves on the top of each branch are tri-lobed and a lovely purple-red. Castor oil leaves are larger and with many more labes. The flowers are small, red with yellow centres, and are in small clusters throughout the upper part of the plant. Seed pods are smooth and oval, about the size of a cherry, 12 mm across and contain three to four seeds about 8 mm long. The leaves shine in the sun and it will reach 3' tall and easily as wide in one growing season. The leaves are a glossy, burgundy-red that ages to a medium green. The plant takes the heat and has tremendous vigor. It easily seeds itself around, and can become a weed. The fruits of the plant are poisonous to humans and animals. The toxic substance is a toxalbumin which, when eaten, leads to symptoms of gastro-enteritis and eventual death of some animals.
Medicinal uses: It may come as a surprise then to discover that concoctions derived from bellyache bush are actually used in folk medicine all around the world, in particular to treat bellyache, hence the name bellyache bush. It's a case of "what does not kill us makes us stronger.

Identification credit: R.K. Nimai Singh Photographed in Delhi.

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