Castor oil plant

Native to Africa and India, castor oil plant is a large, flowering shrub with seeds that are poisonous to both humans and animals.

Castor oil plant has now naturalised throughout Australia and is found in all states and territories except Tasmania. It is often abundant along gullies, watercourses and roadsides, and on floodplains and disturbed land. It can spread quickly, overtaking prime grazing land and making it unfit for livestock.

Castor oil plant is not a prohibited or restricted invasive plant under the Biosecurity Act 2014.

Scientific name

Ricinus communis

Other names

Castor bean, palma christi

Description

  • Flowering shrub generally up to 3m tall and occasionally taller.
  • Younger branches are stout, hollow, dull pale-green or red.
  • Trunk and older branches turn greyish.
  • Leaves are glossy dark reddish-green when young, glossy green when mature, 15-30cm across, sometimes up to 60cm, widely spaced on branches, with hollow stems.
  • Flowers are reddish-green, crowded in stout, erect spikes in forks of upper branches.
  • Fruits are 2.5cm across, covered with soft green or red spines, with 3 segments.
  • Seeds are 1 per segment, mottled, smooth, 1.2-1.5cm long, 6-10mm wide.

Habitat

  • Prefers warm and subtropical regions.
  • Abundant along gullies, watercourses, floodplains and roadsides, and on disturbed land or wasteland.
  • May be common locally after heavy rains or floods.

Distribution in Queensland

  • Found throughout Queensland.

Life cycle

  • Seeds germinate in spring.
  • Flowering occurs December-March.
  • Can grow up to 6m tall within 12 months.

Affected animals

  • Humans; livestock

Impacts

Economic

  • Spreads over sandy soil areas, creekbanks and gullies, leading to significant loss of prime grazing land.

Social

  • Seeds contain ricin, which is toxic to humans and livestock.
  • If eaten, leaves tend to cause neuro-muscular disorders.

How it is spread

  • When ripe, fruits explode and throw seeds several metres.
  • Also spread by roadside slashing, vehicles, animals, garden waste.

Control

Physical control

  • Remove individual plants by cultivation or hand-pulling.

Herbicide control

  • Herbicides are effective.

See the Castor oil plant fact sheet (PDF, 853KB) for herbicide control and application rates.

Biological control

  • No known biological control agents.

Legal requirements

  • Castor oil plant is not a prohibited or restricted invasive plant under the Biosecurity Act 2014. However, by law, everyone has a general biosecurity obligation (GBO) to take reasonable and practical steps to minimise the risks associated with invasive plants and animals under their control.
  • Local governments must have a biosecurity plan that covers invasive plants and animals in their area. This plan may include actions to be taken on certain species. Some of these actions may be required under local laws. Contact your local government for more information.

More information

Contact us

Call your local government office, or Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23.

Last updated
01 July 2016

Contact

General enquiries 13 25 23

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