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David Beaulieu

Poisonous Landscape Design - Castor Bean Plants - Ricin

By January 25, 2004

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Castor bean plants, source of the ricin poison.You've probably heard old-timers talk about the laxative derived from castor plants, castor oil. [Edited to add: Recently, the poison, ricin, also derived from castor plants, has been in the news.] But have you ever thought about including castor oil's source, castor bean plants in your landscape design? If so, be forewarned: although castor bean plants can make for striking specimens in a landscape design, their seeds or "beans" are quite poisonous. Avoid planting castor bean plants altogether if you have small children. This site discusses the many uses of castor bean plants, also providing word derivations for both its common name and scientific name (Ricinus communis).

Comments

October 10, 2006 at 9:38 am
(1) YaYaYa says:

My neighbour has the ricin plant as a “hedge” between our driveways. How dangerous is this? It is also on a well travelled street. Is it legal? The owner of the house really likes these plants and as beautiful as they are, is this a matter that I should move forward with and take the chance of being a nosey neighbor? Their 11 year old son chops them down which means close contact with the plant. I also have a grand-daughter that is not even three that visits here. Please let me know, thank-you. YaYaYa

October 10, 2006 at 10:00 am
(2) David Beaulieu says:

It wouldn’t hurt to at least mention their poisonous nature to your neighbor, in a spirit of neighborliness. I’m not a doctor, so I can’t comment on the degree of danger here. And legal issues can vary from locale to locale, so I can’t really address that, either. I’d check with the appropriate folks in your community (doctor, lawyer) if you really want to research this in-depth.

May 29, 2008 at 11:01 am
(3) Lollollol says:

Burn them bushes down. Or feed em to the neighbor’s pet! That’ll get his attention wont it. Or I tell you what, plant them poison ivys on your property line and watch the fun. Just keep it away from your folks.

May 29, 2008 at 11:49 am
(4) landscaping says:

Of the three options you mention, one is legal (although not advisable), while the other two could cause you significant legal trouble.

January 12, 2009 at 7:24 am
(5) Palm Beach Landscape Designer says:

I would have to agree with David. Just mention to your neighbor the poisonous nature of ricin plant and how it might put their son in danger since he chops them down and is significantly having a close contact on the poisonous plant.

March 7, 2010 at 12:05 pm
(6) Rayna says:

Castor Beans should be outlawed as far as planting them in a residential area. I will try to keep this brief.. My husbands Mother requested this plant for Mother’s day. Like a good girlfriend (at the time we weren’t married) I went to the local nursery to inquire about them, I knew nothing about these plants. The salesperson looked alarmed when I asked for them and asked if I had small children at home or pets. I had no children, but a tiny dog. She refused to sell them saying they weren’t in season yet and looked at me oddly. I bought something else instead and just filed that information away. My MIL is a jealous person who was furious over her son and I building a home together. As our house was being built, I stayed with my sister, and with my boyfriend who had sold his house and moved back to his parents while our house was being built.. I stayed with him on the weekends. Her resentment grew and I was becoming very tired, sick and lethargic the closer it came to making settlement on our home.. Now, I noticed her beans in the kitchen, on the window sill and that she had these plants everywhere. She would make coffee on the weekends telling me to just hit the button as I was an early riser and would go out for a run after my coffee. She’d always make a new pot when the other’s woke up, later..
After a holiday meal at her house, I got really ill.. I drove home, falling asleep and feeling not myself.. infact, the day before the holiday, we went to see our new home, almost complete and my heart was fluttering in my chest.. Odd feeling.. That night, I couldn’t fall to sleep and feared if I did, I wouldn’t wake up. The next day, my boss told me I looked horrible. I had bad pains in my back and my color was gray.. She told me to go immediately to the Doctors. I was very dehydrated and upon testing, he told me to go immediately to the hospital.. I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, my pancreas had stopped producing insulin. This does not run in my family.. My MIL said to me on the phone as I lay in the hosptial bed, “They aren’t telling you everything, there must be something MORE the matter with you, they just don’t want to scare you” Upon a hunch.. and a few months after I was released from the hospital.. I typed in Castor beans and type 1 diabetes.. Now, I can’t be sure but those beans attack the beta cells which kill off organs such as the pancreas, liver and spleen. I always had a feeling she was doing something to me, but blew it off as her just being jealous and trying to break us up, which she always did.. As my curiosity grew I decided to mention Castor beans to her to see her reaction. She denied ever knowing about them.. My husband then knew, she did something as this plant was something EVERY one knew she was obsessed with!

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