Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 74

The white flowers, clumped along the stem, are easy to miss. They expand into clusters of spiky scarlet seedpods containing ricin-laced "beans."

HOW DEADLY ARE CASTOR BEANS?

Some animal species are more susceptible to the
toxins in castor beans than others. The number of
seeds it takes to kill an animal does not correlate
well with its size. Here are the number of seeds it
takes for a fatal dose:
Rabbit: 4
Dog: 11
Pig: 7
Horse: 6
Sheep: 5
Human adult: 4-8
Human child: 1
Duck: 80

A few falls ago, I discovered them
growing in the John C. Campbell Folk
School garden, purloined a few seeds,
and planted them the following year.
They germinated and grew enthusiastically; I had to eliminate all but one, not
74 | BlueRidgeCountry.com

having the "small field" that New York
Times garden writer Anne Raver suggests they need.
My plant was a never-ending source
of interest. In mid-summer, to duck
under its star-shaped leaves, whose red
veins spoked from scarlet stems that
shone as though polished, was to enter
an alien world. Castor oil plants are "like
something out of Maurice Sendak's
imagination," Raver rightly observes. The
minute white flowers were easy to overlook. Not so the spiny clusters of salmoncolored pods swelling with developing
seed. Once the seeds were mature, the
pods would split, forcibly ejecting their
contents. To keep the plant from toppling in the wind, I staked it, added more
stakes as it grew and grew. The space it
demanded seemed a small price to pay.
Looking up through its leaf canopy in the
shift of sunlight and shadow was like
peering though a giant kaleidoscope
turned by an unseen hand. 

CASTOR BEAN TRIVIA

Castor beans are the source of castor oil, a popular
home remedy my older neighbors remember distinctly for its unpleasant odor and taste. It was
administered as a laxative and for other complaints.
(Heating during oil extraction inactivates the ricin.)
Castor oil is used in the manufacture of soaps,
paints, dyes, pharmaceuticals, perfumes, lubricants
and hydraulic and brake fluids.
Countries leading in the production of castor oil
are India, China and Brazil.
The use of castor beans dates back at least 6,000
years. The seeds have been found in Egyptian
tombs; the oil was used as lamp oil, for body ointments and to improve the texture and growth of
the hair.
The common name "castor oil" most likely
derives from its use as a replacement for castoreum,
a perfume base made from a beaver's perineal
glands.
Palm of Christ, another common name, is probably based on castor oil's reputation for healing
wounds.


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Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014

Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014
Table of Contents
Print to Mobile
From the Editor
From the Farm
Festivals & Events
The Hike
Creature Feature
Mountain Report
Country Roads
Potomac Highlands Adventures
Get Up Early! Great Farm Vacations
Saving Mabry Mill
Photo Essay: Mountain Skies
Signature Mountain Dishes
Waterfront Living
Mountain Garden
Cabin in the Woods: Canaan Resort
Guest Column
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - Cover2
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - Table of Contents
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 4
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - Print to Mobile
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - From the Editor
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 7
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - From the Farm
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 9
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - Festivals & Events
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 11
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 12
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 13
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 14
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 15
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - The Hike
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 17
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - Creature Feature
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - Mountain Report
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - Country Roads
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 21
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 22
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 23
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - Potomac Highlands Adventures
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 25
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 26
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 27
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 28
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 29
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 30
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 31
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 32
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 33
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - Get Up Early! Great Farm Vacations
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 35
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 36
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 37
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - Saving Mabry Mill
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 39
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 40
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 41
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - Photo Essay: Mountain Skies
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 43
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 44
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 45
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - Signature Mountain Dishes
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 47
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 48
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 49
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 50
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 51
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 52
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 53
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - Waterfront Living
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 55
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 56
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 57
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 58
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 59
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 60
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 61
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 62
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 63
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 64
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 65
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 66
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 67
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 68
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 69
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 70
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 71
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 72
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - Mountain Garden
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 74
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 75
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 76
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 77
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - Cabin in the Woods: Canaan Resort
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 79
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 80
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - 81
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - Guest Column
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - Cover3
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2014 - Cover4
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