Court Street's Castor Oil Plants More Beautiful Than Ever
Year after year, I have been admiring the blooms in the side garden of the Van Westerhout Cittadini Molesi Cultural and Social Club on Court Street at the corner of Fourth Place. Surrounding a Madonna protected under a white cupola and a flag pole with an Italian flag, profusion of marigold, begonias dalias and cleome from spring to late fall. But nothing rivals the tall castor oil plants that grow against the fence of the garden. Grown from seeds in the spring by one of the members of the club, these castor plants reach their full height by September. Amongst the waxy leaves, little red, fuzzy blooms appear on top of the tall stalks. It's biological name is Ricinus Communes and is native to the Mediterranean Basin, Eastern Africa and India.
As I mentioned in a previous post, for centuries, castor oil from the plant's seed has been used as a natural laxative, a lubricant, as well as to induce labor. But the seeds also contain ricin, a deadly water-soluble protein called a lectin " which, if ingested, causes clumping and breakdown of red blood cells, hemorrhaging in the digestive tract, and damage to the liver and kidneys.
According to Answers.com: " Gram for gram, ricin is 6,000 times more deadly than cyanide and 12,000 times more deadly than rattlesnake venom."
Their seeds may be deadly, but the plants sure are pretty.