Sp. Pl. 2: 1006. 1753. (as gossypifolia)
Shrubs, to 3 m, monoecious. Stems erect, brown, sparsely to much-branched, woody-succulent, hirsute, glandular when young; short shoots absent; latex viscous, colorless. Leaves persistent or drought-deciduous, ± evenly distributed on long shoots; stipules persistent, 2.5–12 mm, filiform-divided, each segment ending in stipitate gland; petiole 3–14.5 cm, stipitate-glandular; blade cordate to ovate in outline, 4–18.2 × 4.2–13.4 cm, 3–5-lobed, base cordate, margins usually serrulate-denticulate or glandular-ciliate, rarely entire, apex acuminate, membranous, surfaces glabrous or sparsely hairy especially on veins; venation palmate. Inflorescences bisexual, terminal and subterminal, cymes; peduncle 2.5–10.5 cm; bracts 6–16 mm, margins entire, glandular-ciliate. Pedicels 1–2 mm. Staminate flowers: sepals distinct or connate to 1/4 length, lanceolate to ovate-lanceolate, 1.2–2.5 × 2.5–4 mm, margins entire, apex round, surfaces glabrous or sparsely hairy, glandular-ciliate; corolla orange-red to purple, sometimes with lighter center, campanulate, petals connate 1/4–1/2 length, 3.5–5.5 × 1.8–3 mm, glabrous or sparsely hairy on 1 or both surfaces; stamens 8 in 2 whorls (5 + 3); filaments of each whorl connate 1/4–1/2+ length, outer whorl 1.4–3 mm, inner whorl 1.8–4 mm. Pistillate flowers resembling staminate, but sepals 2.5–4 × 1–1.7 mm; petals 4–6.5 × 2–3.5 cm; staminodes sometimes present; carpels 3; styles connate to 1/4 length, 1–2 mm. Capsules ellipsoidal, 1–1.2 × 0.8–1 cm, explosively dehiscent. Seeds gray-brown mottled with dark brown spots, ovoid, 6.5–7 × 3.8–4.5 mm; caruncle prominent. 2n = 22 (Mexico).
Phenology: Flowering and fruiting year-round.
Habitat: Disturbed sites.
Elevation: 0–50 m.
Introduced; Fla., Mexico, West Indies, Central America, South America, introduced also in Asia, Africa, Pacific Islands, Australia.
Jatropha gossypiifolia is native to tropical America and has been introduced throughout the tropics, including southern Florida, and in some regions it is invasive; it is widely cultivated for medicinal and landscape purposes. It is a complex species with more than 40 described varieties, subspecies, and forms, some of which are sometimes considered distinct species.