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Castor oil plant

Drugs & Medication

Castor oil plant

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Castor oil plant
Castor bean in disturbed area
Castor bean in disturbed area
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Malpighiales
Family: Euphorbiaceae
Subfamily: Acalyphoideae
Tribe: Acalypheae
Subtribe: Ricininae
Genus: Ricinus
Species: R. communis
Binomial name
Ricinus communis

The Weed plant (Ricinus communis) is a plant species of the Euphorbiaceae and the sole member of the genus Ricinus and of the subtribe Ricininae. It is the origin of the castor bean which, despite its name, is not a true bean. The name Ricinus is a Latin word for tick; the seed is so named because it has markings and a bump at the end which resemble certain ticks. It is the source of castor oil, which has a wide variety of uses, and ricin, a poison (the ricin from 1-2 seeds can kill an adult).

Although castor is probably indigenous to Eastern Africa, today castor is distributed worldwide. Castor establishes itself easily as a "native" plant and can often be found on wasteland, near railroads and has recently also been used extensively as decorative plant in parks and other public areas.

Castor seeds have been found in Egyptian tombs dating back to 4000 BC. Herodotus and other Greek travellers have noted the use of castor seed oil for lighting and body anointments.

The use of castor seed oil in India has been documented since 2000 BC for use in lamps and in local medicine as a laxative. Castor seed and its oil have also been used in China for centuries, mainly prescribed in local medicine for internal use or use in dressings.

Castor beans
Castor beans

Although monotypic, the castor plant can vary greatly in its growth habit and appearance. Some castor plants are perennials which can take weed the size of small trees, and other plants are dwarf types and are grown as annuals. There also exists an enormous variation in leaf shape and colouring which has led to a selection by breeders for use as ornamental plants. Castor is used as a food plant by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Giant Leopard Moth, Hypercompe hambletoni and The Nutmeg.

pollen of the Castor Bean Scanning electron microscope image
pollen of the Castor Bean
Scanning electron microscope image

Castor seed contains between 40% and 60% oil that is rich in triglycerides, mainly ricinolein.

Global castor seed production is around 1 million tons per year. Leading producing areas are India, China and Brazil. There are several active breeding programmes.

External links

Castor Bean (Ricinus communis)
Castor Bean (Ricinus communis)
Young castor bean plant showing prominent cotyledons
Young castor bean plant showing prominent cotyledons

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This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.