Monday, October 02, 2006

Not Fletcher's Castoria ... Oh, a Castor Bean Tree!

Well, it's been a while again hasn't it? At least I have the excuse of having had to travel for work last week to the East Bay area of California! That's a whole other post to come, but in the interests of showing off some things I got in the garden today, I thought I'd put up a few shots I got of the castor trees we have planted out in the front bed.

For those of you who are old enough to remember, Fletcher's Castoria was a popular children's laxative back when I was a kid ... and as any kid who knows what taking Castor Bean Oil was like, apparently it was much tastier. Cherry flavored, if I recall correctly ... though I don't think I ever got the branded version ... if it came to that, I got the nasty tasting stuff that came in the medicinal looking bottle.

Odd preface, you might say? Well, the thing that has always fascinated me about Castors, and especially since I've been growing them, is that the entire plant is poisonous. Deadly, in fact. Leaves, seeds, flowers, it's all going to make you either violently ill (its purgative qualities are historic) or kill you.

Despite those rather ominous remarks, Ricinus Communis, v. Carmencita is a marvelous ornamental well worth growing in your specimen bed. Though I got these in rather late this year, they have reached at least 7 feet at this point, and if they are able to make it further before a hard freeze, we may even see mature seeds develop. And we're hoping they do, as our supply from previous years is getting somewhat depleted ....

Yes, this is the infamous Castor tree reputed to repel moles (if you have them) and can be the basis of a deadly toxin called Ricin. But in any case, as an architectural element planted in the garden, there's little less dramatic than the huge coppery leaves and their late summer blooms, which you can see in some detail in these two shots.

They're best planted in a full sun position where they can get ample moisture to grow ... they are fast growers, who if planted early enough, can easily top 8 feet or more in a season. Their green cousins get even bigger ... often topping 12-13 feet, but we didn't get any of those in this year, as this is our favorite of the species with its rich reddish foliage and odd blooms.

I'll be commenting more on these fantastical plants soon, but wanted to just give you a taste of things to come in the next few weeks, so here you have it ... the plant that produces a laxative (though I'm still not sure how they process it to eliminate the toxic properties) much dreaded by children of my generation ... I wonder how many of today's kids have even heard of Castor Bean Oil and actually know what it's used for ....


Family Man said...

Being that I'm so young, I never heard of castor oil. Yeah sure. :)

Great post and pictures IVG.

olivia said...

Ha FM! I've heard of it, but never had it. :)

These are beautiful plants ... the colours are amazing. The white area looks like lace. I hope you continue to have nice warm fall weather so that you get your seeds replenished.