|Leaves and flowers (male flowers on top)|
Ricinus communis, the castor bean or castor oil plant, is a species of perennial 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 favors selfing by geitonogamy but at the same time can be an out-crosser by anemophily (wind pollination) or entomophily (insect pollination).
Its seed is the castor bean, which, despite its name, is not a bean (that is, the seed of many Fabaceae). 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.
The plant known as "false castor oil plant", Fatsia japonica, is not closely related.
castor bean (plural castor beans)
- The seed of the castor oil plant, Ricinus communis; used in the production of castor oil and of the poison ricin.