jatropha jă´trəfə [key], any plant of a widely distributed genus ( Japtropha ) of perennial herbs, shrubs, and trees in the family Euphorbiaceae ( spurge family), native to tropical areas of the Western Hemisphere. Many of the plants in the genus contain poisonous compounds. J. curcas, also known as Barbados nut or physic nut, is a drought-resistant bush that produces seeds with a high oil content. It has been hybridized to increase the oil content of the seeds. The extracted oil be used as lamp oil or made into soap, and can be refined into low-carbon biodiesel and jet fuel. Although it was promoted as a source of biodiesel that could be grown in poor soils and dry regions where food crops would not thrive, current varieties will not produce sufficient quantities of seed when grown under more marginal conditions to be viable economically as a commercial agricultural product. J. curcas also being explored as a means for extracting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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