Castor bean Facts

Castor bean Facts
Castor bean is flowering plant that belongs to the spurge family. It originates from eastern Africa, but it can be found in warm, tropical areas around the world today. Castor bean grows on fertile, well-drained soil in areas that provide sufficient moisture and sun (usually along the river banks). People cultivate castor bean as a source of oil that has application in various industries. Several varieties of castor bean are cultivated in ornamental purposes.
Interesting Castor bean Facts:
Castor bean has erect stem that can reach 6 to 15 feet in height.
Castor bean produces large palmate leaves that consist of 8 lobes with pointed tips and slightly serrated edges. Leaves can be green, maroon, purplish-black, bronze-green or reddish-metallic, depending on the variety.
Castor bean is monoecious plant. It produces dense terminal clusters of male and female flowers (male flowers are located above female flowers). Male flowers consist of numerous whitish-yellow stamens. Female flowers consist of one spiny ovary and red, star-shaped stigma. Flowers of castor bean do not have petals.
Castor bean is designed for pollination by wind.
Fruit of castor bean is spiny capsule composed of three sections, each filled with one large seed. Seed can be red, brown, white, black, grey or yellow and covered with various spots and blotches that are unique for each seed (like the finger prints).
Ripe capsule splits and forcefully expels seed that often bounces off the sidewalks, road signs and other objects near the plant.
Seed of castor bean has small appendage, called caruncula which attracts ants that are responsible for dispersal of seed.
Scientific name of castor bean is "Ricinus communis". Name refers to the tick-shaped seed (Ixodes ricinus, scientific name of tick) and ability of plant to thrive in many areas (communis = commonly found in the wild).
Seed of castor bean contains toxin called ricin which prevents synthesis of proteins in the cells. This is one of the deadliest toxins in the world. Ricin is 12.000 times stronger than rattlesnake venom. Small quantities of ricin induce nausea, vomiting, weakness, diarrhea and abdominal pain. 7 seeds contain enough toxin to kill adult human.
There is no cure for the poisoning induced by ricin. Depending on the exposure (it can be injected, swallowed or inhaled), death results in 3 to 5 days.
Bulgarian writer Georgi Markov was killed with ricin in 1978. Lethal dose of toxin was delivered in the middle of the street, through the modified tip of an umbrella.
Castor oil was used for the wick lamps in the past.
Castor oil has application in the industry of varnishes and paints, nylon and other synthetic fibers today.
"Castrol", brand of motor oil used for high-speed cars, model airplanes and two cycle motorcycle engines is made of castor oil.
Castor bean is an annual plant (lifespan: one year).

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