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Bad Plants

The Most Dangerous Plant At A Nursery Nearest You

Here's hoping this is not the first you're hearing about the dangers of the beautiful, bold-leaved Ricinus communis, otherwise known as the castor bean plant. Its name might not ring a bell but perhaps you've seen its foliage.

Tough to find a plant that looks this good but, to be blunt, GET OVER IT! photo credit: Valter Jacinto hide caption

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photo credit: Valter Jacinto

The problem is those spiky, Sputnuk-like seedpods, or more exactly, the smooth pebbled seeds within. One of these mouth-watering, multi-colored beans is enough to kill a Jack Russell terrier, and I only single out the breed because that's what my friend's dog was. It took two years for the little guy's organs to finally fail, despite everything modern medicine had to pump him with.

The beautiful, glossy, and seemingly harmless beans inside a Ricinus seedpod photo credit: Abigail Kelly hide caption

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photo credit: Abigail Kelly

The list of plants that COULD hurt animals (and children, of course) is rather long. One of the better online sources is the ASPCA. But given the overall risks involved with most of them, the castor oil plant is where I draw the line.

Never mind that you can buy it everywhere as a summer annual. That does not make it safe. I'd like to see all the varities of Ricinus communis pulled from the market until such a time as a sterile hybrid comes down the pike.

If you must have this dangerous beauty - believe me, I understand the craving - there is one way to sidestop the danger: rip the plant out before it flowers.