This slender-stemmed, multi-trunked tropical evergreen tree or large shrub, a native of Cuba, reaches 15 feet in height with an equal spread, and has unusual 3 to 6-inch-long leaves varying in shape from oblong, fiddle-shaped, or even-lobed. The 1-inch-widebright red or pink flowers are produced year-round in beautiful clusters held upright above the foliage and helps make fire-cracker an interesting specimen plant. The seed capsules which follow hold several smooth, speckled, and toxic seeds, a fact which must be considered when placing this plant in the landscape; it should be kept out of the reach of children.
Scientific name: Jatropha integerrima
Pronunciation: jat-ROE-fuh in-teh-GAIR-rih-muh
Common name(s): peregrina, jatropha, fire-cracker
USDA hardiness zones: 10B through 11 (Fig. 6)
Origin: native to Cuba
UF/IFAS Invasive Assessment Status: not considered a problem species at this time, may be recommended (North, Central, South)
Uses: specimen; deck or patio; container or planter; trained as a standard; highway median
Height: 10 to 15 feet
Spread: 10 to 15 feet
Crown uniformity: symmetrical
Crown shape: vase, round
Crown density: open
Growth rate: moderate
Leaf arrangement: alternate
Leaf type: simple
Leaf margin: lobed
Leaf shape: oblong to obovate; 0-3-lobed with acuminate tips
Leaf venation: pinnate
Leaf type and persistence: broadleaf evergreen, evergreen
Leaf blade length: 3 to 6 inches
Leaf color: dark green and shiny of top, paler green underneath
Fall color: no color change
Fall characteristic: not showy
Flower color: bright red or pink
Flower characteristics: showy; emerges in clusters on terminal cymes
Fruit shape: oval
Fruit length: ½ to 1 inch
Fruit covering: 6-lobed capsule that contains 3 smooth and spotted seeds
Fruit color: unknown
Fruit characteristics: does not attract wildlife; not showy; fruit/leaves not a litter problem
Trunk and Branches
Trunk/branches: branches droop; not showy; typically multi-trunked; no thorns
Bark: gray brown and smooth, becoming textured with age
Pruning requirement: needed for strong structure
Current year twig color: brown
Current year twig thickness: medium
Wood specific gravity: unknown
Light requirement: full sun to partial shade
Soil tolerances: clay; sand; loam; acidic; alkaline; well-drained
Drought tolerance: moderate
Aerosol salt tolerance: moderate
Soil salt tolerance: none
Roots: not a problem
Winter interest: yes
Outstanding tree: yes
Invasive potential: little invasive potential
Ozone sensitivity: unknown
Verticillium wilt susceptibility: unknown
Pest resistance: resistant to pests/diseases
Use and Management
Jatropha makes a delightful red-flowered accent in a shrub border planted to attract attention to an area. It flowers nearly year-round and so is quite popular as a patio tree or garden accent. Multiple trunks and stems originate near the ground forming a symmetrical, weeping clump of thinly-clothed branches. The tree can be staked and trained to grow with one trunk for two or three feet. This is a nice way to display the plant as an accent or specimen. Do not expect this small tree to provide shade, but it will attract hummingbirds and butterflies.
Peregrina should be grown in full sun or partial shade on well-drained soil. Full sun plants flower best. It is not salt-tolerant.
There is a pink-flowered form available at some nurseries.
Propagation is by seed or cuttings.
Pests and Diseases
No pests or diseases are of major concern but occasionally bothered by mites, scales, and superficial leaf miner.
Koeser, A.K., Friedman, M.H., Hasing, G., Finley, H., Schelb, J. 2017. Trees: South Florida and the Keys. University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.