The Richmond Register

Lifestyles & Community

October 1, 2013

Beware of brothers who want to give you a strange plant

MADISON COUNTY —

Dick Ham, whose column normally fills this space on Tuesdays, has fallen and broken his hip. So, he will be off for at least a couple of weeks, and I will be writing a column in his place.

I have been employed by the Richmond Register for more than 28 years and have filled many jobs for the newspaper. I did darkroom work for a number of years and did ad design for more than 10 years.

Now I am in the news department, designing pages and doing anything else that is needed.

I just want you to know I am not Dick Ham. I don’t know any blonde jokes, and I don’t know Bubba. But, I have five brothers, and I can tell a lot tales on them.

Most recently, my brother Bill gave me a strange plant. Now Bill really loves to grow plants. His favorite is tomato plants. He usually supplies everybody in his neighborhood with plants of some kind.

At the end of May, he gave me a strange looking plant he called a “mole bean plant.” He said it would keep the moles out of my garden.

My question was, would it keep the crawdads out, too?

I live in the Union City area where we have clay land, and the crawdads love digging holes in my garden.

Anyway, I set out this plant and really could not believe how wonderfully it did. It seem to grow up overnight. It was soon was over five feet high with a very good stalk on it.

Later in the summer, my wiser and older brother Thomas said, “You do know that plant is poisonous.”

No I did not!

So, I did some research of the mole bean plant. I learned its scientific name is Ricinus Communis but its is commonly called the castor bean. It is a member of the spurge family and is native to tropical Africa. It can grow up to 40 feet tall, but as an annual, it usually grows to 10 feet tall.

The leaves are star shaped with five to nine lobes. The color of its foliage is a maroon contrast. As the seeds mature, the three-celled capsules turn bright red. The beans look like an engorged dog tick in size and shape. The oil is used commercially for lubrication in cosmetics as well as many industrial crop oils.

I have heard it can be used as not-so-gentle laxative. Have you ever taken castor oil.

Castor bean seeds are poisonous, and the poison derived from it is call ricin. It’s similar to the bacterial toxin found in anthrax. It’s said to be 1,000 times more toxic that the cobra snake’s venom.

Castor bean plants should not be planted around small children, but they can still make good garden plants. The bold plant has a certain charm about it.

So, a lesson to be learned is, watch out for brothers who give you strange plants.

My only thought was, is he trying to get rid of me?

 

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