Common name: Castor-oil plant

Scientific name: Ricinus communis

Alternative common names:  Castorbean, wonder tree (English); kasterolieboom, bloubottelboom, bosluisboom (Afrikaans); mohlafotha (Sesotho); mokhura (Pedi); mufuta (Shona); umfude (Ndebele); umhlakuva (isiZulu); umhlakuva (isiXhosa) 

Castor oil

Background

This plant is an annual shrub or small tree with a softly woody stem growing up to 4m high with leaf and flowering stalks often with a grey bloom. The shiny, dark green or reddish leaves are paler below and star-shaped with serrated margins. Upper flowers are reddish and lower flowers cream. Green, brown or reddish, three-lobed capsules covered with soft spines. The whole plant is poisonous.

Where does this species come from?

Tropical Africa.

What is its invasive status in South Africa?

Category 2

Where in South Africa is it a problem?

All provinces in South Africa

How does it spread?

Seed dispersal

Why is it a problem?

Competes with indigenous pioneering species especially in watercourses. Extremely poisonous.

What does it look like?

A very distinctive plant with green, spreading star-shaped leaves and tall, spiky fruit capsules. Leaves: Shiny, star-shaped dark green or reddish leaves that are paler below with serrated margins. Flowers: Upper flowers are reddish and lower flowers cream. Fruit/seeds: Green, brown or reddish, three-lobed capsules covered with soft spines protruding from the top of the plant.

Does the plant have any uses?

Ornament, castor-oil