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is an extensive flowering plant genus in the spurge family, Euphorbiaceae, established by Carl Linnaeus in 1737. The plants of this genus were described and introduced to Europeans by Georg Eberhard Rumphius. The common names for this genus are rushfoil
, but the latter also refers to Codiaeum variegatum
. The generic name comes from the Greek (kroton
), which means "tick" and refers to the shape of the seeds of certain species.
The best known member of this genus is probably Croton tiglium
, commonly called croton, a tree or shrub native to Southeast Asia. It was first mentioned in European literature by Cristóbal Acosta in 1578 as lignum pavanae. Croton oil, used in herbal medicine as a violent purgative, is extracted from its seeds. Nowadays, it is considered unsafe and it is no longer listed in the pharmacopeias of many countries.
Croton oil has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat severe constipation since the seed of the plant can cause diarrhoea. It is a source of the organic compound phorbol and its tumor-promoting esters. In the Amazon the red latex from the species Croton lechleri
, known as Sangre de Grado (Dragon's blood), is used as a "liquid bandage", as well as for other medicinal purposes, by native peoples
Cascarilla (C. eluteria
) bark is used to flavour the liqueurs Campari and Vermouth.
It has recently been shown in Kenya that Croton nuts, such as those from C. megalocarpus
, are a more economical source of biofuel than Jatropha. In Kenya, Jatropha requires as much as 20,000 litres of water to make a litre of biofuel, while Croton trees grow wild and yield about .35 litres of oil per kilo of nuts. Croton trees are planted as a windbreak in Kenya and its use as a source of biofuel may benefit rural economies there. As arable land is under population pressure, people have been cutting down the windbreaks to expand farmland. This new use may save the windbreaks which should help fight desertification.
Croton species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Schinia citrinellus
, which feeds exclusively on the plant.
The genus is pantropical, with some species extending into temperate areas.
Croton californicus (California croton)
Croton capitatus (hogwort)
Croton hancei (Hong Kong croton)
Croton setigerus (Turkey mullein)
Croton wigginsii (Wiggins' croton)