I’m dismayed by calls to remove castor oil plants from Wisbech floral displays

I READ with dismay the call to remove castor oil plants from displays and for them to be incinerated.

David Morgan is correct that four to eight seeds could kill, but to do this someone would have to brave getting them out of the prickly seed capsule and thoroughly chew them before swallowing as the thick seed coat would mean they otherwise pass harmlessly through the alimentary tract like apple seeds (which contain traces of cyanide ~ take them off supermarket shelves!).

Yes, all parts of the plant are ‘poisonous’ but this is a common definition for many plants where the ‘poison’ is used in small doses for medicinal purpose, e.g. Digitalis (foxgloves) for heart problems.

The Castor Oil plant (Ricinus communis) has been used for medicinal purposes since the time of the ancient Egyptians. In the middle ages is was called the Palma Christi, the hand of Christ.

The Apothecaries of Shakespeare’s time used the castor oil plant for treatment of all sorts of ailments. A visit to the Chelsea physic garden in London will see Ricinus communis in almost every bed of plants for treating ailments for different parts of the body. Castor oil, extracted from the seed itself, is widely sold for medicinal purposes today.

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Please, no kneejerk reactions to claims of plants being lethal, although no doubt they could also cure this ailment!


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