With slouching branches
The skin breaks to flower pods
And the willow weeps
Botanical name: Jatropha integerrima
Common name: Peregrina, Fire-Cracker, Star of Bethlehem and Spicy Jatropha
Peregrina is native to the West Indies, and is especially well known from Cuba. It has escaped cultivation and become established in disturbed areas in extreme southern Florida.
The flower clusters of this Jatropha are a brilliant scarlet red, or sometimes pink in color. Each individual flower has star-shaped petals with small yellow flower parts. But there’s something unusual about this plant – the male and female flowers grow in separate bloom clusters, either at different times or on different parts of the same plant. It is strongly attractive to hummingbirds and butterflies, especially to monarchs, swallowtails and zebras.
Female flowers that are visited by bees or caterpillars produce a seed capsule that is filled with three smooth speckled seed. While all parts of this plant contain toxic substances, the rounded seed contain more of these poisons. I’d suggest that the small developing seed pods be trimmed off before they mature to reduce the chances that somebody or something would eat them. Please don’t plant it if there is a chance that it would be eaten by unsuspecting garden visitors.
Peregrina is an evergreen shrub or small tree with glossy leaves and clusters of star shaped bright scarlet or vermilion flowers. The plant has a rounded or narrow domed form and gets up to 15 ft (4.6 m) tall with a spread of 10 ft (3.1 m) or so, although in cultivation it is usually smaller. Peregrina often grows shrublike with several slender trunks, but it can be pruned to a single trunk. The leaves are extremely variable; they may be entire and elliptic or oval, or they may be fiddle shaped, or they may have three sharp pointed lobes. They are bronze when young and brownish on the undersides. The flowers are about 1 in (2.5 cm) across and borne in multi-flowered terminal clusters almost all year round. ‘Compacta’ is a smaller, more compact cultivar.
Peregrina is tolerant of a wide variety of soils so long as they are well drained. Peregrina blooms on the current year’s growth so it can be pruned at any time of the year. It handles pruning well and can be kept to shrub size, trained to a tree form or used in espalier.
Light: Full sun to partial shade.
Moisture: Peregrina is drought tolerant.
Hardiness: USDA Zones 10 – 11.
Peregrina is damaged by frost and is considered marginal in zones 9B and 10A.
Propagation: Propagate from cuttings taken in spring.
Peregrina is a spectacular shrub in bloom, which is most of the year. Use it as an accent or in a mixed shrub border. Peregrina is not salt tolerant, but it is tolerant of poor and dry soils. Peregrina makes a fine container plant on the patio or at poolside. It attracts butterflies and hummingbirds as well as rave reviews from passersby.
Jatropha is a very diverse genus which includes cactus like succulents, herbaceous perennials, and woody trees. They are all united in the same genus because their very similar flower structures suggest a relatively recent common ancestor. Coral plant (J. multifida) is a close relative that is also showy and
Like many of the euphorbs, Jatropha contains a milky sap that can irritate sensitive skin. All parts of the plant are reported to be poisonous if ingested.