Ricinus communis L.
var. communis

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Ricinus communis var. communis

Photo: Bart Wursten
Rd to Domboshawa, Chinamora CL

Ricinus communis var. communis

Photo: Bart Wursten
Rd to Domboshawa, Chinamora CL

Ricinus communis var. communis

Photo: Bart Wursten
Hot Springs, Save Valley

Ricinus communis var. communis

Photo: Bart Wursten
Rd to Domboshawa, Chinamora CL

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Species details: Click on each item to see an explanation of that item (Note: opens a new window)

Common names: Castor-oil plant (English)
Frequency: Very common
Status: Introduced
Robust, hairless annual or perennial herb, shrub or even small tree. Stipules united to form a sheath. Leaves alternate, peltate, palmately-lobed, the lobes with glandular teeth. Inflorescences paniculate; flowers unisexual in the same inflorescence; male flowers in lower half, female in upper. Male flowers with pedicels jointed, with 2 bracteoles; calyx with 3-5 lobes; petals and disk absent; stamens numerous. Female flowers with pedicels elongating in fruit; sepals 5; petals and disk absent; ovary 3-locular, each with one ovule; styles 3, dark red. Fruit 3-lobed, smooth or covered in spiny bristles, splitting into three 2-valved parts. Seeds smooth, mottled.
  1. The plant in Zimbabwe is var. communis, with spiny fruits 1-1.5 cm in diameter. Within the FZ area, two other varieties have been reported: var. megalospermus (Del.) Müll. Arg. with larger fruits (2-2.3 cm in diameter) occurs as a naturalised plant in Zambia and Malawi; var. africanus (Willd.) Müll. Arg. the fruit of which have no spines, is reported as cultivated in Mozambique.
  2. Red-leaved cultivars are grown in gardens.
  3. Cultivated for its oil, which was historically used as an illuminant and purgative; now used in high-speed aero-engines, soap, paint, varnish, candles, dyeing textiles, preserving leather and waterproofing fabrics.
  4. It is a source of the highly toxic 'ricin'.
Derivation of specific name:
Habitat: Cultivated and commonly naturalised, occurring in disturbed places, sandy river beds, forest edges and riverine vegetation.
Altitude range: (metres) 600 - 1740 m
Flowering time:
Worldwide distribution: Native of NE tropical Africa. Well naturalised throughout the tropics, subtropics and even temperate zones.
Zimbabwe distribution: N,W,C,E,S
Growth form(s): Tree, annual, perennial, shrub over 2 m, shrub under 2 m.
Endemic status:
Red data list status:
Insects associated with this species: Achaea catella (Larval food plant)
Micraphe lateritia (Larval foodplant)
Eurytela dryope angulata (Larval foodplant)
Spot characters: Display spot characters for this species

Baumann, G. (2005). Photographic Guide to Wildflowers of Malawi Wildlife and Environmental Society of Malawi Pages 72 - 73. (Includes a picture).

Burrows, J.E. & Willis, C.K. (eds) (2005). Plants of the Nyika Plateau Southern African Botanical Diversity Network Report No. 31 SABONET, Pretoria Page 149. (Includes a picture).

Burrows, J.E., Burrows, S.M., Lötter, M.C. & Schmidt, E. (2018). Trees and Shrubs Mozambique Publishing Print Matters (Pty), Cape Town. Page 466. As Ricinus communis (Includes a picture).

Curtis, B.A. & Mannheimer, C.A. (2005). Tree Atlas of Namibia National Botanic Research Institute, Windhoek Page 638.

Drummond, R.B. (1975). A list of trees, shrubs and woody climbers indigenous or naturalised in Rhodesia. Kirkia 10(1) Page 252. As Ricinus communis

Heath, A. & Heath, R. (2009). Field Guide to the Plants of Northern Botswana including the Okavango Delta Kew Publishing Page 127. (Includes a picture).

Mabberley, D.J. (1997). The Plant-Book. 2nd edition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge Page 618.

Pickering, H. & Roe, E. (2009). Wild Flowers of the Victoria Falls Area Helen Pickering, London Page 63. (Includes a picture).

Radcliffe-Smith, A. (1996). Euphorbiaceae Flora Zambesiaca 9(4) Pages 157 - 159. (Includes a picture).

Setshogo, M.P. (2005). Preliminary checklist of the plants of Botswana. Sabonet Report no. 37. Sabonet, Pretoria and Gaborone Page 58. as Ricinus communis

Timberlake, J.R. & Childes, S.L. (2004). Biodiversity of the Four Corners Area: Technical Reviews Volume Two (Chapter 5-15) Appendix 5-1: Plant Checklist Occasional Publications in Biodiversity 15 Page 208.

Wild, H. (undated, c. 1955). Common Rhodesian Weeds ?Government of Rhodesia, Salisbury Page 49. as Ricinus communis (Includes a picture).

Other sources of information about Ricinus communis var. communis:

Our websites:

Flora of Botswana: Ricinus communis var. communis
Flora of Botswana: cultivated Ricinus communis var. communis
Flora of Caprivi: Ricinus communis var. communis
Flora of Caprivi: cultivated Ricinus communis var. communis
Flora of Malawi: Ricinus communis var. communis
Flora of Malawi: cultivated Ricinus communis var. communis
Flora of Mozambique: Ricinus communis var. communis
Flora of Mozambique: cultivated Ricinus communis var. communis
Flora of Zambia: Ricinus communis var. communis
Flora of Zambia: cultivated Ricinus communis var. communis
Flora of Zimbabwe: cultivated Ricinus communis var. communis

External websites:

African Plants: A Photo Guide (Senckenberg): Ricinus communis
African Plant Database: Ricinus communis
Biodiversity Explorer (Biodiversity of southern Africa): Ricinus communis
BHL (Biodiversity Heritage Library): Ricinus communis
EOL (Encyclopedia of Life): Ricinus communis
ePIC (electronic Plant Information Center): Ricinus communis
Flora Zambesiaca web site: Ricinus communis
GBIF (Global Biodiversity Information Facility): Ricinus communis
Google: Web - Images - Scholar
GRIN (Germplasm Resources Information Network): Ricinus communis
IPNI (International Plant Names Index): Ricinus communis
Ispot Southern Africa: Ricinus communis
JSTOR Plant Science: Ricinus communis
Kew Herbarium catalogue: Ricinus communis
Mansfeld World Database of Agricultural and Horticultural Crops: Ricinus communis
The Plant List (version 1.1): Ricinus communis
Tropicos: Ricinus communis

Copyright: Mark Hyde, Bart Wursten, Petra Ballings and Meg Coates Palgrave, 2002-19

Hyde, M.A., Wursten, B.T., Ballings, P. & Coates Palgrave, M. (2019). Flora of Zimbabwe: Species information: Ricinus communis var. communis.
https://www.zimbabweflora.co.zw/speciesdata/species.php?species_id=135350, retrieved 20 May 2019

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