Castor bean

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Castor bean
Missing image
Ricinus.jpg



Castor bean
Scientific classification
Kingdom:Plantae
Division:Magnoliophyta
Class:Magnoliopsida
Order:Malpighiales
Family:Euphorbiaceae
Genus:Ricinus
Species:R. communis
Binomial name
Ricinus communis

The castor bean (Ricinus communis) is not a true bean, but a member of the Euphorbiaceae or spurge family. It is the source of castor oil, which has a wide variety of uses, and ricin, a poison.

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.

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
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Castor beans

Although monotypic, the castor plant can vary greatly in its growth habit and appearance. Some castor plants are perennials which can take 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.

Missing image
Ricinus_communis_-_pollen.jpg
pollen of the Castor Bean
Scanning electron microscope image

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

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

Missing image
Ricinus_communis1.jpg
Castor Bean (Ricinus communis)
de:Wunderbaum

eo:Ricino fr:Ricinus communis nl:Wonderboom pl:Rącznik pospolity pt:Mamona fi:Risiini uk:Рицина

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