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Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D.

Castor Bean Plant - Good Plant with a Bad Rep

By April 10, 2008

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Every so often I come across a news story about legislation to make certain plants illegal (e.g., this story about legislation to ban Salvia divinorum from Suffolk County, NY). Oh, I totally understand prohibiting certain plants in places where there is concern about invasive species, pests, or diseases, but making a plant illegal because of its chemistry is, in my opinion, stupid.

One thing that bothers me about prohibiting plants is how misinformed people are about their properties. Another is how selective the bans are. For example, in some places it is illegal to buy the alcoholic beverage absinthe, which contains the chemical compound thujone. The wormwood plant from which the thujone is derived is illegal in some places. However, vermouth is another alcoholic beverage flavored with the same plant, yet it never came under fire, nor have the culinary herbs thyme and tarragon, which both contain thujone.

Another plant with a bad reputation is the castor bean plant, Ricinus communis. This plant has had economic importance pretty much since the dawn of civilized time, yet because it can be used to prepare a toxin (ricin), there are people who think it should be made illegal (and in some places it is). The honest truth is, many common garden plants are toxic or have pharmacological properties. If we were to prohibit every plant that could poison you, your spring garden would be devoid of daffodils, rhododendrons, wisteria, jasmine, lantana, azaleas, crocuses, hyacinths, foxglove... you get the picture... many plants.

Today's photo is a castor bean seedling, which is desirable in my garden for a few reasons. It grows very quickly, reaching up to 15' in height by the end of summer if I take good care of it. The leaves are attractive and unusual. It contains alkaloids that deter most garden pests, plus if it is strategically planted, helps to protect the rest of my garden from pests. Could eating it kill me, my kids, or my pets? That's highly unlikely. It turns out it's difficult for people to poison themselves with castor beans even if they try. Wisteria, in contrast, is in no danger of being banned (that I know of), yet has been known to poison children.

Ricin & RCA Toxins | Natural Mosquito Repellents
Photo: The castor bean plant can be a beautiful, trouble-free addition to your garden. (Anne Helmenstine) Add to Technorati Favorites


December 18, 2008 at 11:44 am
(1) Nathan says:

If castor bean plants, which contain ricin, are not much of a threat, as you say, then why do you author an article about ricin itself that seems to say the opposite?
I was originally trying to determine if this plant in my garden was a papaya, but it looks as though it is definitely a castor bean. I doubt I will let it grow, since I have two small children.

December 19, 2008 at 10:16 am
(2) chemistry says:


Many flowering garden plants are toxic. I have kids and pets, yet I still have rhododendrons and daffodils in my garden. Why? Because they are beautiful and pest-free (largely thanks to their natural toxins). They don’t pose a threat to the family.

Biting into a castor plant isn’t a lethal experience; neither is swallowing a castor bean. Ricin is a purified poison, not the plant itself.

Let me put it another way. Aflatoxin is another potent poison. You can get it from strawberries, peanut butter, and black pepper (actually from the molds that grow on these foods). Do I let me kids eat strawberries? Yes.

March 11, 2009 at 8:29 am
(3) Carolyn McCorkle says:

My yard is plagued with moles/voles but I don’t want to use chemicals as I have a new puppy. The underground spikes are kind of expensive. My neighbor told me to plant a Castor plant as they keep away moles. Is this true? Are they safe if my puppy munched on a leaf/stem?

March 16, 2009 at 6:18 am
(4) LES FISHER says:

I have been trying for some time to promote the Castor Plant as a viable means of generating income for low tech agriculture in otherwise unfarmable regions. I believe that the “James Bond-y aura” promoted for Ricin are daft. Ricin stays in the seed cake it is not present in the oil. Ricin is killed by steam and so cake could be detoxifoied and used as an amimal feed if needed – it makes a good fertilsaer otherwise.
The plant is reasonably drought resistant and grows (around here – South Africa) as aweed. It is bug and mould resistant and so is environmentally beneficial. I belive that it is growen as a hedge in south America as an insect deterrant. The leaves and seeds are not bothered by local livestock (goats). The plant offers a very valuble oil source allowing plastic (nylon) to be produced from a renewable source (carbon fixer). Oil used in industry for many products – has a premium price. Is a potential source of Bio-diesel (price permitting). Leaves can be dried and used a biofriendly bug reppelant. Stalks have a long fibre and make excellent paper. It is a reennial and so the roots just go on. I have not yet established a use for the smell.

October 10, 2011 at 8:00 am
(5) John Mburu says:

I am a technician in Nairobi,Kenya.I have a plantation of these castor seeds i want to extract oil for biodiesel production.Now that i know ricin is lethal,please advise me how i can treat the oilcake to make it non poisonous to human and animals. I intend to use the oilcake as a fertilizer.
Thank you.

August 10, 2009 at 4:05 pm
(6) edt says:

i dont think u understand how poisonous this plant is. 3 beans kill a child, 6 beans kill an adult. The bean itself is 50% oil 3% ricin. 70 mg of ricin will kill you.

If you have kids dont plant this.

October 17, 2009 at 3:38 pm
(7) michele says:

assuming that your children will open those pods, i know that my children hate those pods! they are “too pokey!! why do you plant them mommy!!!???” so why do you think your children even would eat them? i always let my kids know that these {what ever they are} will hurt them and let them feel the pods. they never touch the pods again. of course when they touch the pods they are dry and do poke a bit. but they will always remember not to touch and they will always know!

October 18, 2009 at 2:34 pm
(8) John says:

Castor beans killed my dog. She chewed on some seeds (I don’t know how many) and began throwing up several hours later. After apparently getting better, the next day there was more throwing up, lack of appetite and lethargy. Excess urination followed, and two days later, death from organ failure.

These plants are poisonous.

January 26, 2010 at 11:44 am
(9) Brit says:

I may be incorrect, but my research of the said plant, Castor Bean, has shown that as little as four seeds could prove fatal for a 160 lb man. Granted, the results of an ingested Castor Bean seed would also depend on many factors such as size (weight and height), health (organ function, etc.), and much more. Typically, it does seem to be tempting fate to plant any questioned plant in a garden where your children play. However, there are fewer cases of accidental ingestion vs. intentional poisoning.

August 6, 2010 at 4:44 pm
(10) Joe says:

My dad has a 75 acre ranch and we have vineyards and my moms garden. We have planted castor bean plants in certain places to keep squirrels, gophers and moles from the area. Castor bean works like a charm. Not dangerous to humans both large or small. My dad has 2 dogs and they are always wondering around them. No problems there. So yes, I beleive it is ok to plant them. Just beware that they grow very quickly and if you don’t want alot keep an eye on the seedlings. You must remove them before they pop new ones.

October 9, 2010 at 1:06 am
(11) sue says:


The link is to an article about castor bean poisoning, written by an emergency medicine doctor.



Fatalities have occasionally been reported following ingestion of chewed castor beans. Chewing and swallowing as little as 1 bean may produce death in a child; however, swallowing an intact bean without chewing is unlikely to cause serious sequelae.”

I saw this plant for the first time today at a friend’s home; a couple were planted around her compost pile. I had no idea what it was and asked if it was safe for her 2 year old granddaughter to go near it. She said no of course – glad I asked since I was the one in charge of watching her at the time. The child was totally fascinated with it and tried to grab at the bean pods. I can’t believe my friend has these in her yard. Why take the chance?

Oh – and don’t assume that the prickly pod is a total deterrent to kids. This two year old was later stomping on prickly chestnut shells with her boots, trying to open them to see what was inside. What would stop an older unattended child from doing that with the castor bean pod?

October 13, 2010 at 1:09 pm
(12) Mais says:

Castor oil is pressed from the seeds. The remaining pulp is referred to under various names, such as “oil cake” “castor cake,” etcetera. India and China are major exporters, The “cake” is high in nitrogen. It has, and still is being used as a ‘natural fertlizer” or ‘organic fertlizer.” The “cake” is not necessarily described in the ingredients. The conatiner may just say “!00% Organic Fertlizer” – which it is. I bought a bag on end-of-season sale and applied one half “100% Organic Lawn Fertilizer” on my front lawn last Fall. There was nothing to indicate “castor cake” was in it. This spring I mixed the rest with peat moss and soil, and over seeded the lawn in my fenced in yard, where my two beuatiful labdradors play. I didn’t keep the bag. The store which sold it tome is denying they did. I do not have the receipt. And the problem? One of my dogs ate some of the soil. We couldn’t find out what was arong with her. It took her three months to die and it was horrible for her and us. All of her internal organs degenerated. We had no idea until the autopsy. All organic fertlizers are now illegal in Quebec and Ontario. Too late for my beautiful dog. Yes, castor oil is safe , yes it is pressed from the seeds. BUT, the oil then undergoes a special heat treatment to remove the ricin toxin. Remember:Organic merely means it contains carbon molecules; it should not be confused with saftey.
The entire plant is poisonous: it must not be composted, it must not be burned. (The leaves were once used as gopher-mole poison and still are in France.)

November 5, 2010 at 11:49 am
(13) merlyn says:

Ok I have a question I hope someone can answer ,, I grew several caster bean plants about the garden to keep out moles . I have a lot of them . This fall I put them thru the chipper shredder and then put the plant materiel into the garden rows and planted the fall garden .. We live in the south and grow cabbage ,carrots, beets ect in the winter .. So do I have to worry about the toxicity being taken up by the plants or not .. is my garden going to make me sick ?? I can`t seem to find info on this on the net . There were no seeds I removed them for next year , but the plants were quite large about 15 ft. so a lot of plant matter was used in a 20 by 70 foot garden .. Please answer only if your sure no guessing .. Been eating lettuce and radish already .. Merlyn

December 2, 2010 at 9:09 pm
(14) Pete says:

6 – 8 seeds broken or crewed up, If ingested, symptoms may be delayed by up to 36 hours but commonly begin within 2–4 hours. These include a burning sensation in mouth and throat, abdominal pain, purging and bloody diarrhea. Within several days there is severe dehydration, a drop in blood pressure and a decrease in urine. Unless treated, death can be expected to occur within 3–5 days with organ from shock and/or organ failure.
I’m not sure who indicated here, that these planets or the seeds of these plants are not toxic, but who ever they are is providing false information. These seeds are listed as the most dangerous of all. I would never have them in my garden, house or otherwise.

March 9, 2011 at 3:17 am
(15) Save the Plants says:

You people are being ridiculous. Don’t leave your children and pets ‘unattended’ ever anyway. That fact alone should have nothing to do with the castor bean plant. How many of you people take vitamins, minerals, supplements from GNC, The Vitamin Shoppe, prescription medications (aka penicillian, and many many others)? Answer: ALL of you do, and guess where they come from?
You are all being ridiculous. If you had it your way, eventually we wouldn’t have any plants at all. And think how many properties of plants, flowers etc. have yet to be discovered to cure diseases.
Please ‘think’ people first and just use plain common sense. You are all creating hysteria over nothing.

April 20, 2011 at 2:18 am
(16) L says:

MY “plain common sense” tells me that whatever you can eat 6-8 seeds the size of tic-tacs of and die in agonizing death doesn’t belong in a yard where kids play. You must be coming from the Steve “I dangle babies in front of crocodiles” Irwin common sense school.

But leaving that aside, “people” need to cut back on “Common sense” which is uncommon and makes no sense, and start actually using logic. Logic for example, tells me it’s bloody ridiculous to imply plant extracts are all innocuous because some extracts are. Cocaine hydrochloride and nicotine sulfate are both plant extracts, if you’re saying those are harmless because they’re plant extracts, well… oh wow.

The bottom line is this: If you plant them as a form of pest control or in some form of commercial capacity, by all means, go ahead.


April 14, 2011 at 9:58 am
(17) andre says:

I purchased seeds from a seed catalogue they were supposed to be baobab seeds.they all germinate into castor plants.wow is this dangerous or what

April 23, 2011 at 9:14 pm
(18) Keith says:

castor oil seeds are only dangerous when ingested. In Jamaica some people take half seed as a laxative we have trees everywhere and children play around them children play on them and we have no problems so far

May 30, 2011 at 10:18 pm
(19) alexis says:

I can’t believe anyone would ever take a chance and grow these awful plants in a yard that children and pets play in.
It sickens me to think that a parent would plant something that could potentially kill their child. What is wrong with you people/

June 10, 2011 at 7:17 pm
(20) D says:

alexis grow up………….almost all plants, animals and insects some form of toxin in them. as stated in an earlier post, even strawberries!!!…………..the only way a child can get seeds into his mouth and start chewing them is if you let the child do so…………its like common house hold products, dont leave the child around the toilet bowl cleaner, same principle…………grow the beautiful plant and enjoy it and dont let your kid eat the seeds……….nothing wrong with anyone growing them…….i have a giant one growing inside my store. if your child puts anything in its mouth its potential for disaster regardless if its a candy, a castor bean seed, or a toy, so dont be bashing people for growing these plants

September 16, 2011 at 8:02 pm
(21) CD says:

I can’t believe anyone would ever allow their kids to ride in cars or otherwise let a child or an pet anywhere near one. Cars kill people left and right, far more than all toxic plants put together. Do you let your kids ride in a car or walk to school on a public street alexis?

July 4, 2011 at 5:15 pm
(22) Tina says:

I have been planting castor beans for years and I have never had any problems with them, I had never seen one time a child or grandchild even go near them. They r pretty plant s, I have over 200 planted now in my yard and not counting what I will be putting in my 100/200 back yard. Next year I believe I will start the plants and sell them. They are a hit in my yard now I have the whole neighbor hood planting them. My yard always looks great when I plant castor beans!

October 1, 2011 at 12:29 pm
(23) Leslie says:

Ann Marie thank you for your infomation on the Castor Bean Plant, I too planted it because of the carefree and beauty it added to my garden. But later hearing that it could be fatal to animals I was worried and wanted it removed, but now I am comforted after reading your article and will plant it again next year. To add beauty and amaze my friends. Thanks again Leslie

October 15, 2011 at 4:21 pm
(24) Susan says:

Ann Marie, thanks, great article. I just want to add my two cents worth to folks who are saying it’s irresponsible to grow poisonous plants. I have been growing this for several months for it’s beauty. I have a small dog and grandkids. I keep it in an area inaccessible to both. Most plants contain some form of toxin. Deadly nightshade is in the same family Solanaceae, as potatoes,tomatoes and eggplant. Almost everything can be dangerous, it would be be impossible to keep your garden toxin free. As you point out, the mold on strawberries is dangerous too. A little common sense goes a long way, no point in throwing out the baby with the bath water, as they say.

December 22, 2011 at 2:26 am
(25) Michael njoroge says:

We are running a castor project in several location in Kenya. castor can provide immense benefits to local communities. Kenyan indiginous people have used castor for various applications for years and its poisonous angle has hardly been an issue as the usage is not for edible purposes.
I would request John Mburu (who posted previous comment from kenya) to contact us at protos@multilink-kenya.com and we can give him some viable advice on how to use his existing castor plants.

February 13, 2012 at 2:35 am
(26) Akande T. says:

The fact that castor toxin was rated highly toxic should not translate to banning or discouraging its plantation. Phytoxins are known to present in virtually ALL plants! They are primarily to secure the plant from invaders. It is a known fact that the valuables are intensively guarded. How can I describe the benefits that acrues from castor! Over 700 uses were reported ranging from cosmetic, lubricants, fuel, medicine, agricultural uses to biodiesel production. The so call toxin ‘ricin’ has also recently attracted serious attention in production of immunotoxin that handles cancer and HIV virus.

April 10, 2012 at 4:25 am
(27) imadeadman says:

I’m nearly 70 years old and from what I’m reading here by some of the folk I’m a dead man.
You see when I was about 10 to 12 years old we had hundreds of castor bean plants. We had them near the S. W. windows for shade. We also just liked the way they look.
Why I’m a dead man!
I’m not sure why I thought this was the way to do it but I would split the thorny husks open and get the beans out and go around planting them.
I would carry abut six to ten of them in each cheek outside my teeth. I think I thought I was softening them up so they would germinate better.
Any way I sure wish I hadn’t read some of the posts here and found I’m actually dead! I know I sure hated and still hate Castor oil. Try it sometime. It’s given for constipation.

April 14, 2012 at 7:09 pm
(28) T says:

Wow, I have castor beans planted every year ….uhhh told my kids to not chew on them or touch them that they can kill you. They said ok.

May 17, 2012 at 12:11 pm
(29) Johnny Paycheck says:

You people really are ignorant. First off, the seeds are usually 6 to 10 feet in the air. So not only are you not watching your kids but you are letting them play on step leadders unattended if you think they can randomly get the seeds in their mouths. Second, these plants do better if you break off the pods when they start, problem solved there. Third, the CDC itself states ingestion of the seeds is very UNLIKELY, however, the antifreeze in your garage or leaking from under your car WILL kill both dogs and babies (since you think its ok to let unattended babies wander through flower gardens toting a step ladder, im confident you also see no problem with unattended babies tooling around under cars and in garages.
Morning Glory seeds make you hallucinate, better get rid of them too, right?
Castors are just like anything else, RESPONSIBLE parenting, do you take your kid to the river and let them just jump in? no, but you also dont ask the legislature to drain all bodies of water. Oh yeah, EVERYONE who drowns, tends to die. Waters lethality is so high, I tremble every time it rains.

May 18, 2012 at 8:16 am
(30) albertus says:

Hi: I am looking for good castor bean seeds to order in South Africa. Can ayone help me?

May 21, 2012 at 3:48 pm
(31) MH says:

A friend of mine lost her dog to castor bean poisoning. She had a castor bean plant in her backyard and did not know the risk. The dog developed symptoms of poisoning, and I believe a chewed castor bean was found in its vomit. Several days of intensive veterinary care could not save him. Perhaps cause and effect cannot be conclusively proven in this case, but when considered in combination of other reports of dogs being poisoned by castor bean, I would say DO NOT allow this plant to grow in places where children or dogs may have access to it. Even if you do not have dogs, children or grandchildren, I would say DO NOT plant this around your mailbox or along the sidewalk in front of your house…. as someone in my neighborhood has (I keep my dog on a VERY short leash walking past that house!)

May 22, 2012 at 2:10 am
(32) petunia says:

Where in south africa can I get the caster bean seeds it would really look good in my garden

June 26, 2012 at 11:03 pm
(33) Smilin' Veggie says:

Have a question…well, something just to ease my mind really.

This is my first stab at planting Castor seeds. I planted 8 and 3 came up. I have them planted on one edge of my vegetable garden. Even though I wash my veggies before eating them, sometimes I’ll grab a few cherry tomatoes and have a Nibble-Lunch while I’m walking through the garden. Is there anything – a powdery residue or something that can come off the castors and onto my veggies?

By the way, I LOVE these plants! I can’t wait for them to grow. I want to harvest the seeds and plant more next year.

June 26, 2012 at 11:14 pm
(34) Smilin' Veggie says:

Also (sorry) does anyone know if the Castor deters rabbits. All I can seem to find is that it deters skeeters, moles and other pests. Well, the jack rabbits here are pests.

And if staking is necessary, is there a preferred method? One stake, multiple stakes?

Thanks everyone!

July 10, 2012 at 9:12 am
(35) ramsey says:

Hello every one i grow this beutiful plant every summer. The purple ones are jusr amazing. I have 3 kids you just need to be cautious and teach them yhat they will hurt them. Another thing when outside with kids watch them they have never tried to eat them. My only concern when seed pod dries they pop sending seed as far as 10 ft from plant

July 18, 2012 at 3:46 pm
(36) blackaqua says:

Gee, here’s a nifty parenting tip since common sense seems to be fading.

or better yet, teach you kids what is safe and unsafe in your yard. Hmmm
Is it any different the cleaning supply storage in your home?
Nope…not really.

September 7, 2012 at 5:25 pm
(37) dj says:

Will the plant overwinter in southern Illinois, or southern Indiana?
Do the pods produce beans? Do they reseed?

September 18, 2012 at 12:50 pm
(38) Snowdoe says:

I have been growing castor bean plants in southwestern NC for 3 years and love them. They readily reseed and I had to pull hundreds of seedlings this spring. I’m thinking of raking them up after the plants die back. I don’t want to dispose of them irresponsibly because they will become invasive here. Any suggestions as to disposal? I wonder if freezing them would kill them. Didn’t know about them deterring moles which I have problems with on other parts of the property. I will try them and see what happens. BTW, I have a small dog that has never tried to eat a bean. Animals have an ability to know what to eat and what not to eat. Too bad we don’t.

September 18, 2012 at 12:59 pm
(39) Snowdoe says:

Plants did not overwinter in Long Island, NY. I have seeds if interested.

September 19, 2012 at 10:01 am
(40) rick redmond says:

the castor bean plant is my all time favorite ornamental plant ever. my question is, exactly how dangerous is it to handle the seed pods and seeds without gloves when harvesting them for future planting

September 24, 2012 at 2:46 pm
(41) linda says:

I ate 10 seeds yesterday but aren’t feeling really anything… moe than 24 hours ago… maybe it’s out of my system…

October 12, 2012 at 1:34 pm
(42) Carol says:

Some of the arguments made above are just plain nonsense.

Sure, there are toxins of various kinds in many, many plants, including some edible plants and plant parts. But many people here are ignoring the fact that there are DEGREES of toxicity: one plant may be deadly only in massive quantity; another may be lethal at first bite.

Therefore, it’s ludicrous to complain that if we shouldn’t have castor plants in our yards, then we can’t have eggplants either. This is a false comparison with no scientific validity, and it certainly is no ground for belittling the concerns of more responsible people.

Personally, I looked up this article because I fondly remember a castor bean plant in my grandparents’ back yard forty years ago, and I was thinking of planting one myself. My yard is fenced, I have no children, and I have no outdoor pets. So why not?

Because no fence can keep out other people’s pets, or wild animals, or birds, or children.

Because seed pods don’t always stay where they drop. I could accidentally start a local population of castor plants that would inevitably lead to tragedy somewhere down the line.

And because this house will no doubt pass to another family someday, and another after that, and I won’t always be there to make sure they remember the danger. So the only responsible thing for me to do is NOT plant a castor in the first place.

Maybe the answer would be different if I were cultivating castor plants to serve a legitimate purpose, if I took great precaution to protect local wildlife, and if I did it in a remote location instead of a suburban neighborhood.

But I don’t want to be the reason a neighbor’s pet suffers a horrible death, and I don’t want to risk poisoning rabbits and birds, and I certainly don’t want some curious child to find a seed pod that’s fallen outside my fence and break it open.

So you may insult my caution all you like, but I will not put my whims ahead of the safety of others.

October 30, 2012 at 9:20 am
(43) Cheyenne says:

Please see ASPCA.org – animal poison control center, for a list of plants poisonous to pets. I too am a lover of planting interesting plants, but due to many of my favorites being toxic to both our 4 dogs and 2 cats, I decided to plant the toxic ones in an area of our property that our pets have no access to. And of course I keep in mind that most people let their dogs, cats and children wander UNATTENDED on a regular basis. Taking a few precautions allows me to have creative freedom in my yards as well as a sense of being responsible and showing love for others even when they are clueless. Getting ones panties in a bunch and accusing others is no way to enlighten another human being about the truths in life..share your knowledge and allow the other to either soak it up or throw it away and walk away knowing you did your best. We all make our own way in this life…relax

January 13, 2013 at 9:21 am
(44) rahul kumar says:

i don’t think that the castor beans are poisonous. I ‘ve read that four castor beans are enough to kill a dog, but I fed eight castor beans to a dog but it is still alive. I got out the pulpy white inner most part of the beans, mashed it and spread it in a bread, then i fed to the dog, but dog wasn’t harmed at all

January 17, 2013 at 2:56 pm
(45) Vicki says:

How about everyone teach their children NOT to eat any plant or flower or ANYTHING unless it is given to them by their parent. If the child is too young to understand this, DO NOT leave them unattended ANYWHERE!
This is common sense people!

I have no clue why “rahul kumar” who posted above would put 8 castor beans on bread and feed it to his dog after he read 4 would kill a dog – but he should be hunted down and charged with animal cruelty!

January 18, 2013 at 9:01 am
(46) Allyana says:

A child or pet could eat a philodendron and get sick. All this concern about kids poisoning themselves on plants have parents who don’t teach them not to touch things. Maybe we should ban hot stoves from homes with kids, and kitchen knives, and high chairs they can fall out of.

January 20, 2013 at 2:40 am
(47) teej says:

I’m not sure why anyone would go ahead and eat 10 beans or feed their dog, presuming they LIKE their dog, the “inside” of bean. My interest is to deter wildlife in the very back of my property, as apparently “they” (deer, etc.) have a keen sense not to eat this plant. And it is beautiful. The area in which I’d plant is not an area my or any other child would generally play, and certainly not without supervision. I think education is the key–as usual.

February 13, 2013 at 3:30 pm
(48) Phil D says:

The neighbor across the street has a few Castor plants in his unfenced front yard that may (or may not) have killed another neighbor’s dog. I was searching for info because I was warned about these plants by several others and wish to protect my dog.

We know that this is the source of a potent toxin. I have noted on other sites (universities) that reletively small amounts of the seeds are sufficient to kill horses and cows. If my curious dog picks up some of the seeds and bites into one, that may be the end, ditto for your curious child. Responsible people try to watch what their children and pets put in their mouths, but We all know thast it is impossible to absolutely prevent something like that from happening.

February 14, 2013 at 7:04 am
(49) MUNINI says:

kumar…do you mean that, when you are told that drowning your baby is dangerous you go ahead and deep him in an ocean?.. that is cruelty you are practicing and also so inhuman..everything is dangerous..it depends on how you handle it..if one cant take precautions during tending his castor garden then you better off without it..i can plant it any time if i assess the dangers surrounding me
Alexi everything around you is dangerous…but most important is how you handle it,jst a common sense..do you fail to buy a car coz accidents happen? NO!!

March 22, 2013 at 11:37 pm
(50) rahul says:

I think all the reports are nonsense. I took 4 beans on 21st march 2013 and 5 beans on 22nd march 2013 expecting something to happen. But unfortunately nothing happened. I just had couple of vomiting on 22nd morning. Then nothing. nothing on 23rd. I had taken castor bean from a local grower. When I asked for the beans he gave it but with a warning to handle it carefully. But I dont know why it has been given so much of hype. My attempt failed. I will have to go for other means now maybe KCN.

March 31, 2013 at 11:09 am

Let’s not forget the oleander with it’s beautiful flowers. I lived in Corpus Christi nTexas a few years ago and a whole family died while I was living there. It was determind the whole family had died from eating BBQ that they had used dead branches from the oleander to cook their meat with. This happened where the oleander grows prolific with everyone that visits or lives there enjoying their beautiful flowers with the vast majority knowing they are very poisonous. I suppose what I really want to say is that I do not believe any of Gods beautiful plants should be outlawed to grow because the government has paid someone to perform a test on it and say that it is harmful to us. The3re needs to be more education on the consequences of the abuse of any type of plant that can be harmful. We all know that there are many things illigal because the government has deemed so but that does not necessarily mean it is truthful. Many plants that are outlawed have medical purposes and if they would just tell us the truth behind it, these plants are outlawed because of those values and they don’t want anyone to self medicate unless it is with the expensive medicines that many of are made from plants that the large drug companies use to make these medicines. I believe that God put every living thing including plants on earth for a reason and it was not for governments to outlaw them. Many of these plants could hold the cure for cancers and other diseases but will never be found due to the government making them illigal and irradicating many of them to the point of extintion.

April 17, 2013 at 1:16 pm
(52) Judy Drake says:

When I wa a child, many years ago, we had castor bean plants as part of the landscaping. Mom warned us not to eat, or even touch, the beans. Never had a problem with them. Same as with the oleanders.

April 18, 2013 at 4:36 am
(53) Calvin says:

Of all the plants you can plant, you must plant this plant! Good rhyme right?

April 22, 2013 at 3:39 pm
(54) Jim says:

I was just looking for a place to buy castor beans to plant in my yard–I like the plants. I am a physician and a chemist. I know about ricin, etc., etc., etc. Many of “you people” desperately need to cease being afraid of your own shadows. After accomplishing that–not so minor–miracle, face the fact that more laws rendering an ever increasing number of things illegal do not (ever) make you or your loved ones even one iota safer.

April 26, 2013 at 12:01 am
(55) Belle says:

I have 3 boys and I handle them like this:
Me: Boys, don’t eat those berries.
Boys: Why?
Me: because I don’t know what they are and they might kill you.
Boys: okay

Me: boys, don’t eat this plant
Boys: why?
Me: it could kill you
Boys: okay

April 27, 2013 at 4:13 pm
(56) haka says:

i just ate 2 castor seeds with the hull five hours ago thinking it was edible. Ive not got any symptoms so far but am too scared. What should i do??

April 28, 2013 at 12:29 am
(57) Chris says:

Poison Hemlock grows virtually everywhere in the Midwest…I mean literately. My garden in the spring time is inundated…every road side ditch, waterway, nature path golf course, everywhere has hemlock.

Hemlock is FAR MORE toxic than the castor plant. You eat any part of the root or seeds and you are probably going to die. Ingestion of a few compound umbel seed clusters will kill a cow in minutes.

Guess what? They look very much like carrots when young…and they grow in people gardens. Why aren’t all the gardeners dead? Along with all the gardeners kids in the nation? Because WE TEACH THEM!

Sure you can remove all poisonous plants, poisonous bugs, poisonous snakes, poisonous mammals (least shrew) from your property. Use Malathion for the insects…spray it everywhere…it will kill just about everything though especially in concentrated doses so be sure to keep it way from your kids! Next you can use any number of herbicides that will do the trick…just to be safe spray the whole damned yard. Just be sure to keep it away from your kids because they are known to cause respiratory problems. For the shrews and snakes well Malathion again. Spray the entire yard daily and kill all the living organisms beneath the earth the shrews eat. Once your yard is an official toxic waste area and all insects extinct then the shrews will starve to death or leave and the snakes will die as well.

Another proven method is concreting the entire surface of your yard. That will get rid of almost all natural things that can hurt your kids. Sure your going to get more skinned knees but think of the alternative? If skinned knees or potential head trauma from the concrete is too much they sell these bubbles for kids with rare immune diseases…but will pretty much protect them from everything so long as the power doesn’t go out stopping the pump collapsing the bubble and suffocating the kids.

May 19, 2013 at 5:22 pm
(58) Paula says:

Right on, Chris! After reading this thread I was really getting worried about the lilies of the valley, the crocuses, & the Solanaceae such as bittersweet, eggplant, potato & tomato. And the yew trees! Two of ‘em, one on either side of the front steps! Not to mention the hornets, the wasps, the bees, the snakes & the toads! And the fungi: all those toadstools everywhere! Yeah, I was getting worried. Like someone said in an earlier post, I must be dead! I was born in 1940 & grew up in rural NJ in an old farmhouse on three acres surrounded by woods.

I suffered. No TV, no hi-fi, no plastics, no computer, no cell phone. I don’t know how I survived. Fortunately, my mom said not to eat the berries, not to pick the toadstools, not to stick my finger in a hornets’ nest. I’m still convinced I must be way over average intelligence (especially after reading this thread) to have managed to make it through life. :) My roaming was limited only by my own sense of stopping at the end of the known places, which would extend a bit farther with each exploration.

I suppose what I’m saying is that there was more known than unknown within the radius of my explorations. Which seems not to be the case for most of the people who write here. If they & their children live in tiny yards of several square feet planted with standard lawn & plants from a catalog, there is so much more unknown than known.

May 31, 2013 at 3:52 pm
(59) brenda prosser says:

I remember my Grandmother having “mole bean plants” all around the edges of her garden. We (all of the children) “you can look at this but don’t touch it or you could die”. Since I trusted my precious grandmother, I totally enjoyed the beauty of the plant but would have never dreamed of eating or even playing with the beans. If you have children and are not sure if they take you seriously then don’t plant them. I am going to plant them because our lawns have been taken over by moles and nothing seems to work as well as the plants.

June 7, 2013 at 12:26 pm
(60) AUDREY says:

I manufacture a brand of Jamaican castor oil , I have some plants growing on my compound I have six dogs that roam the area and have never had any problems with my animals caused by this plant.

June 7, 2013 at 5:15 pm
(61) Leslie says:


Here is a link that also tells you if you remove the seeds the kids & animals won’t be able to eat them.

I agree that we have so many plants that are poisonous & we continue to plant them. Even poinsettias will kill animals & kids if eaten, but we buy them EVERY year at Christmas time to display around. The list goes on! I also agree that your kids & animals do not need to be left unattended in areas where any plants are. And the key to the kids, is teaching them. I mean come on, that is how we were raised and still here.

I think it is very pretty and i love the fact that it helps to rid gardens of pests! We spray chemicals on our yards & gardens and eat them too. And to have a plant that would do just that and not have to spray another chemical is ok in my book.

June 10, 2013 at 8:08 am
(62) Jane says:

For many years I have added castor bean plants to my garden as a way to create a tropical feel, variation in the foliage and help keep voles and moles under control. This year I will not be planting Castor bean since our one year old small dog got into last year’s dried pods that were stored in the house. (when on the plant the beans, which are the most toxic part, are way too high for most dogs to reach) We think she ate 3 beans, or, 1 pod. She spent several days in the hospital and there were concerns as to whether her internal organs would be compromised to the point of death. She survived, but we’ve decided that it just isn’t worth the risk. Knowing the risks associated with toxic plants is one thing. Making the decision whether or not to minimize the risk is another. I’ll miss the beauty of the plant, but after seeing what our dog went through, I happily make this sacrifice.

June 14, 2013 at 11:31 am
(63) Masters in Botany says:

You guys are rediculous. I have these plants in a kept garden where i don’t let anyone near the section containing this plant. Yes, Ive had people try to harvest the seeds before hell, even a whole stalk. This is a dangerous plant and if you’re too stupid to not realize it because it’s “so pretty” then you deserve what you’re going to get. I had a volunteer (working at the university botanical gardens ) prune the plant he had to be hospitalized because he didn’t realize just how toxic the plant was and avoided all precautions. He wasn’t supposed to touch the plant but he groomed it and got some particles on him and eventually he ingested some. Mind you he was only grooming it for 5 minutes. We had another case where a woman was playing with the pods and she had to be hospitilized later because she somehow was expose to the ricin. You have it coming if you’re stupid enough to plant it and keep it near your home.

June 22, 2013 at 2:58 pm
(64) v says:

Really people? guess what? potatoes are fatal!so are tomatoes! eggplant! azaeleas will kill you! carefull, mangoes are related to poison ivy!

nature is nature, tell yourkids to avoid the toxic plants and you will be fine.

Say, why are some of you nutcases eating this stuff? what is wrong with you? are you suicidal?

June 24, 2013 at 11:29 am
(65) Jeanette says:

My husband just purchased some castor bean seeds to try and eliminate our gopher problem. I have heard all the hype about how poisonous they are, but during World War II, people were encouraged to plant them because the oil was used for something or other in the war effort. I remember we had them and they were beautiful. And, I remember me and my friends using the large leaves as umbrellas and playing under the plants, making my playhouse there. That was from my birth until we moved when I was 6 years old.

July 8, 2013 at 12:38 am
(66) Lori says:

My dad grew castor beans for years, and none of his five children or any of our numerous cousins suffered any harm from them. He told us the seeds were poisonous. That was enough for us–a word to the wise….

July 15, 2013 at 11:30 am
(67) Rosalie Stafford says:

Growing up here in Arizona — notice I am still alive! — the house was densely surrounded by castor beans & oleanders — both poisonous plant types — kids were told to not put the leaves or seeds in theirs mouths because they were poisonous — to the best of my knowledge, even though many houses had dense plantings of castor beans & oleanders, planted for shade, in pre-AC era, NO ONE was ever injured, poisoned, or killed as result of proximity to castor beans or oleanders — telling kids to not put them in mouth was sufficient — what? are kids stupider now than they used to be? Plant castor beans for shade & beauty & stop being a dreary helicopter parents!

July 25, 2013 at 1:03 am
(68) Shirley Elliott says:

I was taught to recognize Caster bean plants as a child in Kansas. Mother said they were poison, I believed her. They grow wild in most states. A couple of years ago when I spotted a large healthy plant on the bank of a small creek here in Poway, Ca. I reported it to the authorities as the seeds could be easily reached by any child on the way to school. A half block away. Because of the steep angle where the plant was growing it could have been reached by any eight year old child. It was removed and has not grown back. I always look when I happen to pass that way.

August 4, 2013 at 2:49 pm
(69) steve says:

this article is bull crap this is one of the most deadly plants on the planet look any where else and theyll tell you the same one bean can kill a person 2 to 3 beans will kill a grown man this article is written by some one who is very misinformed so in short its a bad plant with a bad rep

August 9, 2013 at 10:31 pm
(70) Ran says:

I purchased one of these plants on impulse simply because it was something different. I had no idea about it being poisonous and it was never mentioned at purchase. I did my research and learned of its toxicity and frankly like many other plants yes it’s poisonous, yes I have kids and a dog. But trust me my kids aren’t eatin anything they find growing outside and my dog doesn’t do anything other than sleep and has never in all his 8 years ventured near my flowers. I was always told if you don’t know what it is don’t eat it, it’s basic common sense. Also my kids know da*n well they better not be playing in my flower beds/gardens. If you have small children then either don’t plant it or actually supervise your children instead of letting them roam around on their own. Yes it can kill a small child or a pet, but so can a hundred other things that can be found in the household or the immediate environment. Don’t make it sound as if this plant is the only real danger you ever have to worry about.

August 26, 2013 at 9:42 am
(71) Diana Nordstrom says:

Commonly known as Castor Oil Plant or Castor Bean Plant. Despite its name the seeds the plant produces as “beans” are not true beans.

Castor beans

It is not to be mistaken as a Fatsia Japonica, (known as the false castor oil plant), they are similar in appearance.

Castor oil and beans from the plant contains Ricin, a highly toxic natural protein. A dose as small as a few seeds can kill an adult if ingested or the oil injected.

Ricin can even be poisonous if inhaled.

However Cold pressed castor oil commercially sold is non-toxic to humans due to the small dosage and dilution.

castor oil

Overdosing on ricin can include painful and unpleasant symptoms such as, nausea, diarrhea, tachycardia, hypotension, persisting seizures, burning in the mouth and throat, abdominal pain, severe dehydration, and a decrease in blood pressure. If not treated, death occurs within 3-5 days however when recognised a full recovery usually occurs.

Castor bean plant

Suicide or murder attempts are very rare, even though it is well known as being one of the deadliest plants, and its easy to find as the plant can grow along the roadside in India.

August 29, 2013 at 9:52 am
(72) Pete says:

What is the best and safest way dispose of the cantor bean stalks at the end of the season? Is it a health concern to burn the stalks and seed packets?

August 29, 2013 at 9:57 am
(73) Pete says:

What is the proper way to dispose of the plant stalks and seed packets. Can the be burned at season end?

September 18, 2013 at 12:25 am
(74) Pete G says:

The whole thing about the Castor Bean is so damned silly I’ve put this off of a couple of years. I feel those who want it banned because it’s poison are so damned ignorant they don’t deserver a response.
As a child of ten to fourteen I planted these thing all over the place. Two reasons why. I like the plant very much. I had access to hundreds if not thousands of seeds and my parents wanted them around the house for their shade and beauty.
They are so dangerous that maybe I died and just don’t remember it. I carried as many as a dozen of the seeds in my cheeks softening them before planting them. I never had a single sick day at the time so I guess they must be pretty safe.
Granted, I never chewed one or broke the shell but I sure did soak them in saliva in my mouth before planting.
Many many times. They have a slightly bitter taste but not a bad bitter. Not something that would make you want to chew them either.
I think had I chewed them up, at least if I had chewed enough of them I could have been hurt if not killed.
I had no idea they were poison.
Would I repeat the act or recommend it. NO!
I’m just saying they must not be too bad. I’m alive and quite well at age seventy one. Didn’t hurt any part of my body to my knowledge. I’m very healthy, and brain is functioning quite well. IQ is tested in the 130 to 140 range. Still going.
Still have Castor plants all over the place.
Cleveland, TX

December 18, 2013 at 12:46 pm
(75) CJ says:

I know these posts are from 2008 however I was checking out plants that are poisonous to my goats and I did not see where anyone mentioned Oleander. This is a plant it seems nearly everyone grows and all parts are poisonous. My friends dog died from chewing on a stick. I have to continually clean up the leaves and flowers that blows in and falls off over the fence line into my property. Now back to the Castor plant, I grew up with this plant being around we would drill holes in the seeds and make beads. The plant and the seed are beautiful so I still have some of the plants growing and I keep them where the animals can not get to them. Poke weed is another plant I just found growing It has a beautiful red stem but is poisonous so I need to contain the spread of this plant. My goats were eating the leaves thank goodness no harm done to them.

March 26, 2014 at 5:02 pm
(76) Oasis says:

I totally agree with the author of this article. Making a plant illegal because of its chemistry is one of the most stupidest thing ever.

Listen, I’m an east African, grow up with Castor Bean Plant all around me as the plant is native to my homeland. As a kid I played with the plant freely as most kids do and I most probably ate some of it too… But I or my mates never had any problem with it whatsoever. It may produce poison in a lab but natural interaction with the plant is very very safe. Back home in Africa were the Castor Bean Plant grow everywhere 99% of the people do not even know the plant is considered illegal because of its chemistry. In fact most of the people do not even know the plant can produce poisonous risin.

March 27, 2014 at 9:00 pm
(77) *Daryl* says:

I ran across this blog while looking for information about why it’s so hard to aquire Castor bean plant seeds. I had a terrible infestation of moles last year and they’re already at it again this year. I went to a local greenhouse hoping to acquire seeds. They said they couldn’t sell them anymore. They said to check back in a few weeks (apparently to see if they have seedlings in stock). WHAT??? Does this mean that the seedlings I’ll get are going to be sterile??? I HOPE NOT!!! Now I’m going to have to pay a premium price for cultivated plants when I could have planted my own from seed. Rediculous!

My parents grew Mole Beans as far back as I can remember. I can remember touching the plants. I’m sure I probably handled the seed pods as well. Never had a problem with them. I noticed a mention of a website selling the seeds in my search. I’ll be investigating that!!!

And to anyone that might comment on my persistance to acquire Mole Bean seed. I do not have any kids, I do not have a dog, I’m not suicidal, I’m not homicidal. I do want to kill or drive out some moles!!!

March 29, 2014 at 7:33 pm
(78) Greg says:

Hmmnnn…the chances of dying from ingestion of a castor bean or the more likely chances of dying from disease-carrying rats and mice in my yard and house. Are you kidding me? People put rat poison, fertilizers containing human feces, pesticides, and all kinds of things in their yards without much consideration of how these affect the environment or how they could affect their children; sometimes they’re smart enough to put warning signs on the lawn, but often they don’t Bottom line: use common sense and use a complimentary barrier of plants/objects to keep your kids away from poisonous plants that could be enticing! I doubt your kids are going to walk through thorny roses or blackberries because they see a fascinating bean pod. Use God’s creation/nature to maintain balance without being afraid (and using a bunch of petroleum derivative fertilizers, poisons, etc as your fears push out your common sense). Statistically, this stuff is much less likely to kill your kids than the common food (high glycemic, LDL fatty foods) they eat and the everyday traffic they are exposed to.

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