Bellyache bush (Jatropha gossypiifolia)

Bellyache bush is a tropical shrub or small tree. It forms dense thickets that crowd out other vegetation. It is a Weed of National Significance.


How does this weed affect you?

Bellyache bush invades disturbed areas and overgrazed pastures, forming dense thickets that crowd out other vegetation. Its seeds are highly toxic to stock and humans, and its sap can cause dermatitis. It has been declared a Weed of National Significance in Australia.

Human poisoning

What to do if a person is poisoned:

  • If the patient is unconscious, unresponsive or having difficulty breathing dial 000 or get to the emergency section of a hospital immediately.
  • If the patient is conscious and responsive call the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 or your doctor.
  • If going to a hospital take a piece of the plant for identification.

What does it look like?

Bellyache bush is an erect shrub or small tree up to 4 m high. Leaves are green to purple, 5 to 14 cm long and 7 to 13 cm wide with 3 to 5 lobes. The leaves are sticky and the bush contains watery sap. Flowers are 6 to 9 mm wide with red to purple petals that have yellow bases. Flowering occurs most of the year but predominantly in late summer and autumn. Fruit are oblong, three-lobed capsules about 1.1 cm long, containing 2 or 3 brown seeds 0.6 to 0.8 cm long. Capsules are initially green and ripen to dark brown.

Where is it found?

Bellyache bush is native from Mexico to Paraguay, and was probably introduced to Australia as an ornamental plant in the late 1800s. Bellyache bush is a tropical species that is frost sensitive, it is unlikely to survive in New South Wales.

Maps and records

  • Recorded presence of Bellyache bush during property inspections (Map: Biosecurity Information System - Weeds, 2017-2022)
    These records are made by authorised officers during property inspections under the Biosecurity Act 2015. Officers record the presence of priority weeds in their council area and provide this to the NSW Department of Primary Industries. Records reflect the presence of the weed on the date of inspection.

More information

back to top


Herbicide options

Users of agricultural or veterinary chemical products must always read the label and any permit, before using the product, and strictly comply with the directions on the label and the conditions of any permit. Users are not absolved from compliance with the directions on the label or the conditions of the permit by reason of any statement made or not made in this information. To view permits or product labels go to the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority website

See Using herbicides for more information.

Fluroxypyr 333 g/L (Staraneā„¢ Advanced)
Rate: 300 mL in 100 L of water
Comments: Spot spray application
Withholding period: Do not graze failed crops and treated pastures or cut for stock food for 7 days after application. See label for more information.
Herbicide group: I, Disruptors of plant cell growth (synthetic auxins)
Resistance risk: Moderate

back to top

Biosecurity duty

The content provided here is for information purposes only and is taken from the Biosecurity Act 2015 and its subordinate legislation, and the Regional Strategic Weed Management Plans (published by each Local Land Services region in NSW). It describes the state and regional priorities for weeds in New South Wales, Australia.

Area Duty
All of NSW General Biosecurity Duty
All plants are regulated with a general biosecurity duty to prevent, eliminate or minimise any biosecurity risk they may pose. Any person who deals with any plant, who knows (or ought to know) of any biosecurity risk, has a duty to ensure the risk is prevented, eliminated or minimised, so far as is reasonably practicable.
All of NSW Prohibition on certain dealings
Must not be imported into the state, sold, bartered, exchanged or offered for sale.
North West Regional Recommended Measure* (for Regional Priority - Prevention)
Land managers should mitigate the risk of new weeds being introduced to their land. The plant should be eradicated from the land and the land kept free of the plant. The plant should not be bought, sold, grown, carried or released into the environment. Notify local control authority if found.
*To see the Regional Strategic Weeds Management Plans containing demonstrated outcomes that fulfil the general biosecurity duty for this weed click here

back to top

For technical advice and assistance with identification please contact your local council weeds officer.
For further information call the NSW DPI Biosecurity Helpline on 1800 680 244 or send an email to

Reviewed 2018