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Gardeners should consider planting castor beans for more than just the beauty of the plant. The castor bean is useful as a screen, for shade on the west side of a house, and even (it's reputed) as a deterrent to moles and gophers. Its tropical foliage tinged in red is bold and attractive; its silhouettes against a window at night can be very exotic.

In tropical climates castor bean plants are evergreen. In our area it is an easily cultivated annual that needs little care. You should be able to find seeds in nurseries for 10-to-20 foot plants and for a dwarf variety.

Castor beans are not for everyone: the seeds are poisonous and should not be planted where children play unless each seed pod is pinched out before the seeds develop. And the seed and foliage can also cause severe contact allergies for some people.

Castor beans are grown commercially for its seeds and its oil, which is used in laxative and many cosmetics. In commercial extraction, toxins do not pass into the oil.

Rosemary Moyers, Smith County Master Gardener
Texas AgriLife Extension Service

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