You Bet Your Garden

The deadly and exotic castor bean plant

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January 21, 2012 — Is it a deadly menace? A natural mole repellant? An attractive tropical? Mike McGrath takes a close look at the notorious castor bean plant. Plus: Answers to an especially large selection of your growing questions.

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Question of the Week

I have a question about a plant that I find very intriguing: the Castor Bean Plant. I had seen a few in my neighborhood and finally tracked a plant down in nearby Ottsville, PA, thinking I’d hit the jackpot. I planted it in a spot I thought it would like judging from the others I’d seen, and it has thrived right outside my back door. Then I read an article about the plant in my favorite local paper, The Bucks County Herald, and was horrified! The described toxicity of the beans (though they are beautiful to look at) really scared me! I had known nothing about the beans being poisonous; I just loved the way the plant looked and how it added contrast to the garden. I had just passed on some seeds to my Mom, and as soon as I finished the article I called her to say “Don’t touch them again until I talk to Mike McGrath!” I even had anxiety dreams about it, as we have four children, a beloved dog, and this plant is right outside our back door. The children are ages 6 to 12, so they know better than to ingest a bean, and the dog doesn’t go into my garden that often. Am I over-reacting to think I should I rip this specimen out of the ground and have my Mom toss the seeds? Seeing the word ‘Ricin’ in the article literally scared me silly. My mom and I would love to hear your thoughts on this, and we always appreciate your words of wisdom and humor. Get the answer »

Photo by Flickr user Timothy Vogel



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