Ricinus communis Castor Oil Plant
classical L. name possibly from ricinus, a tick or bug which the seed resembles
Ricinus communis, the castorbean or castor-oil-plant, is a species of flowering
plant in the spurge family, Euphorbiaceae. It is the sole species in the monotypic
genus, Ricinus, and subtribe, Ricininae. The evolution of castor and its relation to
other species are currently being studied using modern genetic tools. It reproduces with
a mixed pollination system which favor selfing by geitonogamy but at the same time can
be an out-crosser by anemophily or entomophily. Its seed is the castor bean, which,
despite its name, is not a true bean. Castor is indigenous to the southeastern
Mediterranean Basin, Eastern Africa, and India, but is widespread throughout tropical
regions (and widely grown elsewhere as an ornamental plant). Castor seed is the source
of castor oil, which has a wide variety of uses. The seeds contain between 40% and 60%
oil that is rich in triglycerides, mainly ricinolein. The seed also contains ricin, a
water-soluble toxin, which is also present in lower concentrations throughout the plant.
An unrelated plant species, Fatsia japonica, is similar in appearance and known as the
false castor oil plant.