The Castor Bean plant is native to Africa and Asia, but this species is now found across the globe in tropical and sub tropical areas. It belongs to the Spurge family, the common name of which is Euphorbiaceae. It is the only member of the Ricinus communis genus and is characterized by large leaves and bizarre seed pods. The word ‘ricinus’ means ‘tick’ and the plant is named so because it resembles a certain species of the European tick.
This tropical plant is most often grown as an ornamental plant. It is most often grown in moist and well drained soils along areas such as roadsides, river beds, fallow fields, or the edges of cultivated lands.
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Features of the Castor Bean Plant
This evergreen herbaceous can grow up to a height of 40 feet, developing wood like stems in climates that are free of any frost. It is a perennial plant that is very robust and can easily be grown in warm and temperate climates. It usually does not grow more than 6 to 10 feet in one growing season. In the initial stages, it grows straight up and develops branches later on to form a well-proportioned small tree with strong stems and a dense canopy. If the temperature falls below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, this plant dies. Additionally, this plant does not have a milky latex sap. Instead, it has a watery sap.
The leaves of this plant are star-shaped and are on long petioles. These can grow above 2.5 feet across. Every leaf has around 5 to 11 deeply incised lobes with very prominent central veins. Usually, the leaves of this plant are glossy green in color but some species also have blackish purple, deep red metallic, maroon, or bronzish green leaves with white veins. Flowers of this plant are produced on the stems at heights of 8 to 18 inches. The flowers are not showy and do not have petals. The male flowers of this plant are produced below the female flowers. The flowers of this plant usually do not have petals and are not showy either.
Uses of Castor Bean Plants
There are quite many uses of the castor plant. The most prominent ones are listed below
- It is used for theproduction of castor oil. Ripe seeds that have their hull or outer cover removed can be pressed to extract castor oil. Castor oil is used all over the world for so many different purposes. It is used as a purgative for constipation, to promote hair growth, and to help pregnant women. Skin disorders like boils and inflammations can also be cured using castor oil. A lot of people also use castor oil as a cure for abdominal pain. It is the most widely used in India.
- Castor bean seeds without the outer cover removed can be used for birth control, constipation, leprosy, and syphilis.
- In the manufacturing industry, castor bean seed capsules are used to make paint, lubricating oils and varnishes.
Types of Castor Bean Plants
A lot many varieties of the castor bean plant are used for their flowers, fruits, leaves or for castor oil. A few common ones are selected and explained here. They are listed below.
Carmencita Bright Red
This variety is characterized by red stems and bright red 1 inch seed pods. The leaves are bronzish red in color or a very deep purplish color. The foliage color is bright green. This cultivar can grow up to a height of 5 to 6 feet and is rather spiny. The germination time for this variety is 14 to 21 weeks. Ideally, these plants should be spaced 48 to 60 inches apart.
The seeds of this plant are poisonous and should be kept away from the reach of children. It is mainly used as a bedding or pot plant. It needs an ideal amount of sun to grow and blooms in the months between June and September. The hardiness zones for this cultivar are 1-13 S/W. Traditionally, oil from the seed was burnt in lamps in Ancient Egypt. This was used in Egyptian tombs. In the modern day, this oil is used for its laxative properties. Gardeners make use of this owing to the fact that it is a fast growing plant and can turn up the heat in tepid perennial borders. In perennial zones 9 and 10, these plants can grow much taller.
This cultivar has pinkish red panicles and seed pods. Well drained soil with approximately 30 % clay is ideal for the growth of this variety. It grows well at a temperature of 12 to 15 degrees centigrade and temperatures below 10 degrees centigrade can only be tolerated for a very short while. A lot of balanced fertilizer needs to be used for healthy growth of this plant. High sun exposure ensures best growth and the crop time is around 9 to 10 weeks. The poisonous seeds should be kept away from children. It is a half hardy plant that can grow up to a height of 90 centimeters. It can be used best as a solitary plant for borders or containers, as a medical plant, an oil plant or an ornamental leaf plant.
This is characterized by bluish green foliage and seed pods that are in different shades of peach. This plant is relatively miniature and the blooms flush throughout the season. The USDA zones are 6b through 9b. This plant is very vigorous and is equally poisonous as the rest and hence should be kept away from the reach of small children. It was bred first in 1954 in Spain by Cebria Camprubi Nadal.
This plant can grow up to a height of 4 to 5 feet and has pink colored seed pods with leaves that are in dark red shades. The USDA zones are 5 to 11 for this cultivar and the blooming season is late summer to early fall. For this spiny plant, full sun is ideal for healthy growth. Well drained soil with a pH of 5.8 to 7.0 is best for this plant. The seeds for this cultivar should be planted 0.25 inches deep and should be spaced out 36 to 46 inches so that they have enough space for growing. The seeds of this variety are highly poisonous and should be kept out of reach of children in order to avoid hazards of any sort. The average germination period is a week or two weeks at a temperature of 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. This plant can really add an exotic feel to the landscape. Fertilizing is needed every one month for the healthy growth of this variety.
This cultivar is relatively more compact and can grow up to a height of 4 feet only. The leaves and stems of this variety are reddish brown in color. This variety is native to Africa and is perennial in USDA zones 8 to 11. The flowers are usually creamy yellow that have spiky scarlet husks with brown seeds. Full sun exposure is ideal for its growth and this one blooms in the summer. It is deer resistant, heat tolerant and drought tolerant. These plants can also be extremely toxic and a few people can also get contact dermatitis upon touching it. The average germination period for this cultivar is 7 to 14 days at a temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Late summer to early fall is the bloom season for this plant. Well amended soil is ideal for the growth of this variety, with a pH of 5.8 to 7. They should be planted 0.25 inches deep and 1 to 2 seeds per plant for the best growth. The seeds are poisonous and care should be taken of the fact that they are not eaten. This plant has one of the fastest growth rates. These are very architectural and can be used at the back of large borders or island beds.
New Zealand Purple
This one branches lesser than the other varieties and has leaves that are smaller and reddish purple in color. This fast growing cultivar has hardiness zones 9 to 11 and is annual in the other zones. Apart from that, full sun is ideal for the growth of this plant, along with dry and sandy soil. The color of the foliage is very striking. This cultivar can reach a height of 10 feet in a single growing season. Care should be taken around children and pets, since the seeds are highly poisonous. The seeds take 12 to 14 weeks to bloom. This plant has a glossy texture and is resistant to deer.
This cultivar can grow up to a height of 7 to 10 feet. It has red stems and red seed pods with leaves that almost look like they are bronze colored. The flowers are red in color and the flowering time for this plant is summer, early fall, or late fall. It prefers mesic water and the flowers and fruit are showy. It attracts bees and butterflies and is resistant to deer and rabbit. The leaves, roots, fruit, seeds and all other plants are toxic and should be kept away from the reach of small children. Full sun or partial shade is ideal for the growth of this cultivar. At cultivation time, these should be spaced 36 to 48 inches apart for healthy growth. The USDA hardiness zones are 9a, 9b, 10a, 10b and 11. This plant is drought tolerant and has average water needs. Over watering this plant can spoil it completely.
This one has blood-red stems and silvery leaves. Full sun or partial shade is ideal for the growth of this plant. This cultivar can attract a lot of bees and butterflies. It is deer and rabbit resistant and all parts of this plant are highly poisonous. For cultivation of this plant, the seeds should be self fertile and soaked for 24 hours before sowing them. This cultivar can grow up to a height of 40 feet and is hardy in zones 8 to 11. It repels mosquitoes and other biting insects. It has average water needs and over watering causes the plant to wither. At the time of cultivation, these need to be spaced 36 to 46 inches apart. In the initial stages, this plant grows straight up and develops branches only later on.
This cultivar is another tall variety that is 7 to 10 feet in height and has green leaves with white midribs. It is an annual plant that can give a tropical look to any landscape and grows very fast. Care should be taken about the fact that its growth is not restricted otherwise the roots can get cramped and that can leave the plant stunted. All parts of this plant are poisonous and hence should be kept away from the reach of children and pets. The seed heads of these plants exist in various colors. Full or partial sun is ideal for the growth of this plant. The planting method for the best growth of this plant is direct seeding. Ideally, these should be started indoors. For this plant to grow tall, it is necessary that it is planted in very rich and fertile. Typically, the seeds of this cultivar take 12 to 14 weeks to bloom.
Castor Bean plants are very useful plants due to the various amounts of uses that they have. However, they should be handled with a lot of care due to the fact that they are highly poisonous.