UCCE Master Gardeners of Sacramento County
University of California
UCCE Master Gardeners of Sacramento County

Castor Plant

Ricinus communis also commonly known as the castor oil or castor bean plants which are flowering perennials in the Euphorbiaceae family. They are native to the Mediterranean basin, East Africa and India. Castor oil has many uses in medicine, pharmaceuticals, skin care as well as a bio diesel component. In ancient Egypt it was used as a fuel and for medicinal purposes.

It has been used as a laxative, moisturizer, also thinning of hair. NOTE: As with all natural homeopathic drugs, you should always consult your doctor with any questions or concerns.

It was studied as early as 1972 and tried early on for use in warfare. It seems to be pretty inconclusive in its results, but has been tried by early Soviet, KGB, as well as terrorist. Ricin which is from the castor bean is toxic if used in the right methods and doses.

As late as 2023 German police were thwarting off ricin attacks thought to be from Islamic terrorist groups.

It is so interesting to learn how certain plants in our daily landscape uses are and have been used throughout history for a variety of uses, not only medicinally but in warfare.

I picked this plant up at my favorite nursery and absolutely love it for its striking burgundy foliage, although my husband secretly says I am just trying to poison him… I tell him, “Time will tell my love”.  You should be aware that once it is done flowering it will shoot seeds in all directions. Fortunately, it is very easy to grow and easy to spot so you can control how many you would like to grow or share with your neighbors.

For me it has been a year-round perennial because of our mild climates. It is super fun and easy so check it out if you have the chance.  

photos by Heather Hamilton
photos by Heather Hamilton

castor cuttings
castor cuttings

large castor 2
large castor 2

large castor
large castor

Posted on Wednesday, June 5, 2024 at 9:24 AM

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