Jatropha dioca

Euphorbiaceae (Spurge family)


Leatherstem is an erect, perennial, shrubby plant with simple or somewhat lobbed leaves. It is a member of the spurge family (Euphorbiaceae). The stems are quite flexible, thus the name leatherstem.


Leatherstem grows on gravelly bluffs, hillsides and ravine slopes of the South Texas Plains, the Edwards Plateau and Trans-Pecos areas. It also grows into south Mexico.

Toxic Agent

Leatherstem is poisonous to sheep and goats. The major toxic agents and phorbol esters, which severely irritate the stomach lining.

A limited number of feeding experiments by the texas Agricultural Experiment Station found that leatherstem was toxic but not fatal to a sheep fed 2 percent of its body weight of green leaves. Seeds were fatal to a lamb at 3 percent of its body weight in the three doses over 12 days.

A goat fed 3.7 percent of its body weight of leatherstem leaves developed progressive anemia and died.

Signs of Livestock Ingestion

Signs of leatherstem include:

  • Severe gastric inflammation
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Management Strategies

Leatherstem is relatively unpalatable to livestock. Grazing management practices that improve or maintain good quality range condition and avoid overgrazing reduce the incidence of poisoning from leatherstem.

Proper mineral supplementation programs, especially providing phosphorous, also reduce livestock losses to the plant.