Ricinus communis is not indigenous to the Iberian peninsular but has naturalised here, and you consequently you will spy it throughout the region. It is a plant I cannot help photographing as it looks fabulous against the Algarvian blue.
However this is a plant to be extremely wary of. It is poisonous to animals and humans, and is considered one of the most dangerous plants in the world. The pollen if inhaled is highly likely to cause allergic reactions including asthma attacks, the sap causes skin rashes and if that was not enough the seeds contain ricin. Some people can react just by touching the leaves, so keep it away from young children and animals and be cautious when photographing it yourself!
There are male and female flowers, and they appear together on the same plant. The male flowers are more visible and cluster at the base of the spike. The tiny female flowers are located at the top of the spike and they produce the unmissable spiny red seed capsules. As they dry the capsules explode to reveal shiny mottled seeds which resemble dog ticks. Hence the name Ricinus which is latin for tick.
Despite the allergenic nature and toxicity of these plants, they are heavily cultivated for ornamental purposes and also for their seeds. Since it is from the seeds that castor oil comes from. Yup this is the Castor Oil Plant, also known as the ‘Palm of Christ’ because of the healing properties of the oil. I wonder who was the first to discover that the oil from cold-pressed seeds is safe to consume and can be used for healing purposes. And even more intriguing what made them experiment in the first place?!
I have never heard or seen this plant and found your information most interesting. Lovely photos too!
So glad you enjoyed 😀
It was originally from the western Mediterranean basin but apparently now be found anywhere which is frostfree.
What a beast, I can’t imagine how the sap can be avoided when gathering seeds.
I know! Apparently they have now cultivated less poisonous versions but even so they must wear protective clothing, and I would have thought new farm workers would need to undergo allergy tests.
Seems to me this is essential knowledge for tourists. Are the facts widely publicised? I’ve never heard of this. The plant is so lovely – especially in your pictures – that is it tempting not to reach out and touch it.
Bizarrely there isn’t even a warning in my Iberian flower book let alone in the tourist guides!
Goodness, for such a spectacular plant it has a dastardly reputation. I wonder who first discovered that there was anything good about it.
I am so so curious as to why anyone tried – maybe they suffered the vomiting reaction, and thought it might be a useful medicine?! It certainly is intriguing
It does look quite scary, all that angry, spiky red, so I’m not surprised!
ooh I never thought of it that way, but of course you are right – perfect warning.
I didn’t know that castor oil comes from this plant. It is a beautiful plant.
It is beautiful isn’t it – and neither did I until a year or so ago. Guess we don’t always think about where things come from.
Yikes! You have to wonder how many deaths occurred before the discovery of the safe element of the plant. It is very striking, though now I know to keep well away if I see one.
That’s what I have been wondering too!!!
I’ve been getting quite close to it, but MrB did mention a year or so ago parts were poisonous so fortunately I’ve never attempted pick up the seeds! Hadn’t quite realised though how lethal it is.
In beauty there is often danger!
Yes it is amazing that such a discovery be made. I shall admire from afar. Good concert last night? X
Excellent concert last night 😀 and there was a dancer too who was brilliant. If only though I could have understood what they were sharing about the instruments!
Saw lots of the dreaded plant today 🙂 Was it the Arabic/Flamenco one in Olhao?
Hope you stayed far away!! And yes it was – great fun. Such a talented group.
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