» Poisonous Plants » Castorbean


Family: Euphorbiaceae

Scientific name: Ricinus communis L.

Common name: Castorbean

Description: This species is generally described as an treelike shrub, but in cold climates it is grown as an annual. The leaves are alternate and palmate with 5 to 11 lobes; each lobe has a serrate margin. The flowers are in racemes or panicle-like clusters. The unisexual flowers are arranged with the female flowers positioned above the male flowers. The fruit capsules are smooth to spiny and the mottled glossy seeds are fitted with water-absorbing caruncle at the base. The plant is native to Asia and Africa and is a member of the spurge family.

Occurrence: This shrub grows up to 15 feet high and is cultivated as an ornamental throughout the United States.

Toxicity: Castorbeans are not considered weeds since they are planted commercially for oil production and are grown as ornamentals. The attractive seeds contain ricin, one of the most deadly compounds known. Ingesting two to four seeds may cause poisoning in an adult; eating eight seeds usually is fatal.

Symptom: The phytotoxin ricin causes a burning sensation in the mouth, followed by stomach pains, diarrhea, dullness, incoordination, vomiting, excessive thirst, convulsions, prostration, and death .

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