May look like a tree or shrub


Alternate leaf arrangement

Large palmately divided leaves

Prominent leaf veins

Scientific Name

Ricinus communis

Common Names

castor oil plant, castor bean plant, palma christi


Asia and Africa



Distinguishing Characteristics

This is a tall shrub, which usually has a woody stem and is tree-like, with pale green branches sometimes tinged with red.

Leaves are large (up to 50 cm in diameter) and palmately divided (7-9 triangular lobed), alternate, blue-green to dark green. Margins are toothed with conspicious veins. An unpleasant smell is released when leaves are crushed.

Flowers are formed at the top of a stiff stalk. The upper flowers are female, the lower are male.

Fruit is an ovoid capsule with sharp red spines. The seeds are mottled brown and fawn. The pods explode when ripe to disperse the seed.

Plants were originally grown for castor oil, which is made from the seed. Seeds are toxic and can kill if eaten.


Sources & References

"Weeds - an illustrated botanical guide to weeds of Australia" by B. A. Auld and R. W. Medd

"Plantnet FloraOnline"

Prepared by Justin KY Chu, July 2005

Checked by Bev Debrincat, February 2010