|Castor oil plant (Ricinus communis)|
Recently I came across a list of the top ten poisonous plants and...YIKES!... number one on the list is a plant I sometimes see growing along our Tennessee roadsides. I found one a couple of weeks ago, stopped to photograph it and, quietly, quickly, respectfully, walked away. When it grows in a local meadow, farmers cut down the plant immediately to protect their livestock. (It's reported that four seeds will kill a rabbit, five a sheep, six an ox or horse, seven a pig, eleven a dog but it takes 80 to kill a duck. Hardy little cusses aren't they.)
Castor oil plant is native to the Mediterranean Basin, Eastern Africa and India, but somehow it found its way across the Atlantic.
The laxative castor oil is made from the beans (seeds really, they only look like beans) but production of the old-time medicinal is not without risk because the large seeds are so toxic.
The toxicity of raw castor beans is due to the presence of ricin, a naturally occurring protein. It's lethal if ingested, inhaled or injected. A dose as small as a few grains of salt can kill an adult, although cases of humans being poisoned are relatively rare unless you are a spy (click Georgi Markov).
For more information, go to: top ten poison plants