The WALA Plant Library
Castor Oil Plant

Synonyms for Castor Oil Plant: Castor bean, castor oil bush, palma Christi
Scientific Name: Ricinus communis L.
Family: Euphorbiaceae (Spurge family)


Shrub, annual herb or perennial tree, with red or green leaves: the castor oil plant comes in many guises and takes many shapes, depending on its location. Around 20 varieties are known, and they all differ in form, colour and size of the shrub, as well as the spines of their seed capsules. But despite the diversity of its appearance, the castor oil plant is easily recognisable by its large, striking, seven- to eleven-lobed, star-shaped, dark-green, shiny leaves and its elongated inflorescences. From August to October, or even until March, depending on when it was sown, the inconspicuous greenish-yellow flowers open in clusters along the stem, strictly segregated according to sex. Only female flowers occupy the tip of the inflorescence. They are distinctive for the red pistils in the centre of the flower. Lower down we find exclusively male flowers, recognisable by their yellow stamens. The spiny or sometimes spineless fruits each contain three seeds with black-brown markings, which resemble beans but are in fact deadly poisonous! However, the oil obtained from them is not only safe for human consumption, but extremely useful for medical and cosmetic purposes.