A Poisonous Ornamental

By William T. Hathaway

Castor-bean (Ricinis communis)

The large, attractive leaves of the Castor-bean seem to account for its popularity as an ornamental in yards; the greenish and reddish-purple leaf coloration is perhaps another pleasing feature. Although the seeds may not be harmful if swallowed whole, chewed or crushed seeds are poisonous. Prof. James W. Hardin and J. M. Arena, M.D. in their book Human Poisoning from Native and Cultivated Plants write that “The danger may be eliminated if the flower stalks or seed heads are removed before the fruits are mature.”

It is obvious this plant without developed seeds is far less harmful to children who may play with the beans.

(Also see these illustrations in larger format.)