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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    (1 of 5)
Other Uses    (3 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (4 of 5)
Care (info)
Half Hardy Moist Soil Full sun
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


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

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.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 9 and is frost tender. It is in leaf all year, in flower from July to September, and the seeds ripen from September to November. The species is monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and is 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: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


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

Plant Habitats

 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

References   More on Edible Uses

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  Eczema  Emollient  Expectorant  Laxative  
Purgative  Skin

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].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Fibre  Fodder  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].

Special Uses

Carbon Farming

References   More on Other Uses

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.

Carbon Farming

  • Agroforestry Services: Crop shade  Plants providing crop shade especially trees.
  • Agroforestry Services: Windbreak  Linear plantings of trees and shrubs designed to enhance crop production, protect people and livestock and benefit soil and water conservation.
  • Fodder: Insect  Plants grown for useful fodder insects.
  • Global Crop  These crops are already grown or traded around the world. The annual value of each is more than $1 billion US Examples include coconuts, almonds, and bananas.
  • Industrial Crop: Oil  Materials, chemicals and energy include bioplastics, biomass, glycerin, soaps, lubricants, paints, biodiesel. Oilseed crop types.
  • Industrial Crop: Wax  Water resistant, malleable substances. Currently, most commercial wax is made from paraffin - a fossil fuel.
  • Management: Standard  Plants grow to their standard height. Harvest fruit, seeds, or other products. Non-Destructive management systems.
  • Other Systems: Multistrata  Multistrata agroforests feature multiple layers of trees often with herbaceous perennials, annual crops, and livestock.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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Plant Propagation

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

If available other names are mentioned here

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Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

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 :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Readers comment

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?

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

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

   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.

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 : [email protected]

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

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 [email protected]

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