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Ricinus communis - L.
Common Name Castor-Oil Plant, Castorbean, Palma Christi, Wonder Tree, Castor Oil Plant
Family Euphorbiaceae
USDA hardiness 10-11
Known Hazards The whole plant is very poisonous[10, 19, 20], even one seed has been known to be lethal to children[65, 76, 200]. The seedcoat contains an extremely lethal poison that was once used by the KGB to dispose of their enemies[260]. The leaves are only mildly poisonous[76]. The toxic principle is water-soluble so is not found in the oil[76]. Abdominal discomfort, cramping, nausea, loss of fluid and electrolytes. Possible allergens present. Do not use during pregnancy as may induce premature labour and miscarriage [301].
Habitats Not known in a truly wild situation.
Range Africa? Original habitat is obscure. Naturalized in S. and S.C. Europe.
Edibility Rating  
Other Uses  
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating  
Half Hardy Moist Soil Full sun

Bloom Color: Red. Main Bloom Time: Early fall, Late summer, Mid summer. Form: Upright or erect.

Ricinus communis Castor-Oil Plant, Castorbean, Palma Christi, Wonder Tree, Castor Oil Plant

Ricinus communis Castor-Oil Plant, Castorbean, Palma Christi, Wonder Tree, Castor Oil Plant
Physical Characteristics
 icon of manicon of shrub
Ricinus communis is an evergreen Shrub growing to 1.5 m (5ft) by 1 m (3ft 3in) at a fast rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 9 and is frost tender. It is in leaf 12-Jan It is in flower from Jul to September, and the seeds ripen from Sep to November. The flowers are monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and are pollinated by Wind.The plant is self-fertile.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in heavy clay soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil.

Cataputia major. Cataputia minor. Ricinus africanus. Croton spinosus.

 Cultivated Beds; South Wall. By. West Wall. By.
Edible Uses
Edible Parts: Oil;  Oil.
Edible Uses: Oil;  Oil.

The seed contains 35 - 55% of an edible oil, used in cooking[2, 171]. The seed is a rich source of phosphorus, 90% of which is in the phytic form[218]. Some caution should be observed, see the notes above on toxicity
Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Anthelmintic;  Antidandruff;  Antitussive;  Cathartic;  Emollient;  Expectorant;  Laxative;  Purgative;  

The oil from the seed is a very well-known laxative that has been widely used for over 2,000 years[222]. It is considered to be fast, safe and gentle, prompting a bowel movement in 3 - 5 hours, and is recommended for both the very young and the aged[4, 254]. It is so effective that it is regularly used to clear the digestive tract in cases of poisoning[254]. It should not be used in cases of chronic constipation, where it might deal with the symptoms but does not treat the cause[4]. The flavour is somewhat unpleasant, however, and it can cause nausea in some people[4]. The oil has a remarkable antidandruff effect[7]. The oil is well-tolerated by the skin and so is sometimes used as a vehicle for medicinal and cosmetic preparations[254]. Castor oil congeals to a gel-mass when the alcoholic solution is distilled in the presence of sodium salts of higher fatty acids[240]. This gel is useful in the treatment of non-inflammatory skin diseases and is a good protective in cases of occupational eczema and dermatitis[240]. The seed is anthelmintic, cathartic, emollient, laxative, purgative[4, 7, 21]. It is rubbed on the temple to treat headache[218] and is also powdered and applied to abscesses and various skin infections[218]. The seed is used in Tibetan medicine, where it is considered to have an acrid, bitter and sweet taste with a heating potency[241]. It is used in the treatment of indigestion and as a purgative[241]. A decoction of the leaves and roots is antitussive, discutient and expectorant[218]. The leaves are used as a poultice to relieve headaches and treat boils[240].
Other Uses
Fibre;  Insecticide;  Oil;  Oil;  Repellent.

The seed contains 35 - 55% of a drying oil. As well as being used in cooking, it is an ingredient of soaps, polishes, flypapers, paints and varnishes[2, 4, 7, 14, 57]. It is also used as a lubricant and for lighting and as an ingredient in fuels for precision engines[7, 17, 100]. The oil is used in coating fabrics and other protective coverings, in the manufacture of high-grade lubricants, transparent typewriter and printing inks, in textile dyeing (when converted into sulfonated Castor Oil or Turkey-Red Oil, for dyeing cotton fabrics with alizarine) and in the production of 'Rilson', a polyamide nylon-type fibre[269]. The dehydrated oil is an excellent drying agent which compares favorably with tung oil and is used in paints and varnishes[269]. The hydrogenated oil is utilized in the manufacture of waxes, polishes, carbon paper, candles and crayons[269]. A fibre for making ropes is obtained from the stems[7]. The growing plant is said to repel flies and mosquitoes[7, 14, 18, 20, 171, 201]. When grown in the garden it is said to rid it of moles and nibbling insects[14, 20, 201]. The leaves have insecticidal properties[171]. Cellulose from the stems is used for making cardboard, paper etc[61, 171].
Cultivation details
Agroforestry Services: Crop shade;  Agroforestry Services: Windbreak;  Fodder: Insect;  Global Crop;  Industrial Crop: Oil;  Industrial Crop: Wax;  Management: Standard;  Other Systems: Multistrata.

Landscape Uses:Border, Container, Foundation, Massing, Seashore, Specimen, Woodland garden. Prefers a well-drained moisture retentive clay or sandy loam in full sun[14, 200]. Requires a rich soil and daytime temperatures above 20°c for the seedlings to grow well[260], though the seed may fail to set if temperatures rise above 38°C for an extended period[269]. The plant requires 140 - 180 days of warm temperatures in the growing season in order to produce good crops of seed, and is readily killed by frost[269]. The plant is reported to tolerate an annual precipitation in the range of 20 to 429cm, an annual temperature in the range of 7.0 to 27.8°C and a pH of 4.5 to 8.3[269]. The castor-oil plant is a fast-growing shrub in the wild, reaching up to 12 metres in height, though it is much smaller when cultivated in the temperate zone[188, 260]. A very ornamental plant[1], although it is not winter hardy in Britain, it can be grown outdoors as an annual bedding plant for sub-tropical displays, and can flower and produce fruit in its first year in warm summers[1, 4]. It has been known to ripen a crop of seeds as far north as Christiana in Norway[4]. Providing the plants water needs are met, yields of around 1 tonne per hectare have been achieved, with exceptional cases of up t 5 tonnes per hectare[269]. It has a long history of cultivation as an oil-bearing and medicinal plant, having been grown in ancient Egypt[238]. It is still widely cultivated for its seed in tropical and sub-tropical zones[1, 61]. There are many named varieties, some developed for ornamental use and others for oil production[4, 269]. Plants may need support in exposed areas[188]. Special Features: Attractive foliage, Not North American native, All or parts of this plant are poisonous.
Seed - sow early spring in a warm greenhouse in individual pots. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out after the last expected frosts[1]. The seeds retain their viability for 2 - 3 years[269].
Other Names
Found In
Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :
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Expert comment
Botanical References
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Readers comment
Elizabeth H.
Angela Knowles Thu Sep 30 16:17:31 2004
I have heard that the castorbean plant is good for getting rid of gophors, but cant find a website where it could be ordered. Can I get one from a Nursery?
Elizabeth H.
misari, s.m. Wed Jan 31 2007
Insect pests constitute the most imprtant limiting factors to castor production and productivity. there is the need to host this on this site. I am interested in exchange of information on castor science and development, especially in the areas of insect pests and diseases, color photographs of insect pests.. immature and adult stages for easy identification for farmers and scientists are very important inclusion for this invaluable website. steve m. misari
Elizabeth H.
Mulatu Wakgari Fri Apr 4 2008
I first of all thank you for your contribution to the body of knowledge with respect to castor. But remember if you get chance of visiting east Africa, particularly Ethiopia,you will definitely revise the concept. You can find castor plants of different color here and there naturally growing. By the way in my country,Ethiopia, We know castor only as a weed until recently. The origin of castor plant is also well established. Thanks
Elizabeth H.
Mon Apr 7 2008
Dir Sir As I tried to write to you in my previous e-mail, cotton in my contry is growing wild, Its use was even not known to my parents except for giving light by burning like candles putting one seed over the other inserted in straight stick.So I strongly against the idea that you say it is not known in wild situation. Whoever is interested can come and visit in its natural ecosytem. Remember the country is also one of the eight centers of origin of flora and fauna. That is why I am saying and believe me. One of my friend Requested the inclusion of pests both diseases and insects. I also request the same and I am also ready to contribute my little knowledge of insect pests of castor in my area in case you need. I am not joking.
Elizabeth H.
cu bui van Mon Aug 18 2008
respectfully to website manager we are regarding to produce biodiesel oil from castor-oil and how to plant this plant in viet nam , we are also projecting to manufacture some fatty acid used in industry , many thanks as would received from your instruction , sincerely ragards , cu buivan email : buivancu@yahoo.com
Elizabeth H.
a. funmi Tue Mar 10 2009
i am a 500Level student of animal science,agriculture,oau,nigeria. i found this page interesting.kindly send me if available, information on marketing and prospect of Castor oil cultivation in Nigeria
Elizabeth H.
e.beaumont Fri Jun 12 2009
I would like to try growing a ricinus communis plant as i see some do grow in this country. Does anyone know where a few seeds may be available (not huge qamounts E beaumont email edgar.beaumont@tiscali.co.uk
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Subject : Ricinus communis  

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