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Castor oil plant, Castorbean (Ricinus communis), fam. Euphorbiaceae.
A mighty plant, which would grow in a tree (as in its motherland, Africa), if our summer were not so short – since it dies from the slightest frost. Castor oil plant is found in Kyiv rarely along the private residential area, but in southern Ukraine it is more common. Glossy leaves, with purplish tint, have eight lobes surrounding the petiole with no gaps – this shape has no analogy in any other our plant.
Even being forcedly annual, Castor oil plant has enough time to develop the fruits in prickly capsules. The seeds contain a toxalbumin ricin – one of the strongest poisons in nature. However, it is easily destroyed by boiling, so that castor oil – a main target product of agriculture of this plant – has no traces of this toxic substance. The oil is used in industry, and in medicine – for external use and as a laxative. The laxative effect is not from its toxicity but from irritating action of the main fatty acid constituent of the oil – ricinoleic acid; it is not found in any other vegetable oils.