Wednesday, June 12, 2013


Castor Oil Plant. S: Thel Enderu. T: Chillamanakku. Ricinnus communis
This tall shrub (which can reach 12m) is recognizable by its large, star-shaped leaves, with fat lobes extending like fingers. The leaf margins are roughly toothed. Each shiny leaf is about 15-45 cm and can vary in colour from a dark green to purplish-brown.
The many flowers are borne in linear bunches, with male flowers at the base and female flowers at the tips. However, these flowers lack petals and instead have 3-5 greenish sepals only.
The fruits are also very recognizable, they are spiny green or greenish-purple capsules, borne in bunches. They split open to reveal highly poisonous, mottled brown seeds that resemble ticks. (The scientific name Ricinnus is the Latin work for tick).
This is a shrub that is native to the Mediterranean, East Africa and the Indian subcontinent. It spreads easily in disturbed areas and in Sri Lanka is common in scrub and secondary forests. It is also cultivated in home gardens.
The seeds are highly toxic if the seed coat is damaged, and as a result, provide the plant with a degree of protection from insects and animals. Currently, the toxins are being examined for use as an insecticide and are already being used as a natural fungicide.
Castor oil is extracted from the seeds has been sued since 4000 BC in Egypt and documented since 2000 BC in India. In Asia, castor oil has been used for centuries for medicinal purposes and it is reported that in Ayurveda, castor oil is considered the king of medicines.
     - Flowing Plants commonly encountered in Sri Lankan habitats, Sriyanie Miththapala, Siril
        Wijesundara, Janaki Galapatti, The National Trust Sri Lanka, 2011

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