Ricinus communis L., Sp. Pl. 1007. 1753. Muell. Arg. inDC., Prodr. 15(2): 1017. 1866; Hook. f., Fl. Brit. Ind. 5: 457. 1887; Parker, For. Fl. Punj.: 461. 1918; Pax in Engl., Pflanzenreich 4. 147. 11: 119. 1919; Shishkin in Fl. U.R.S.S. 14: 300. 1949; Rech. f. & Schiman- Czeika, Fl. Iranica 6: 8. 1964; Stewart, Ann. Cat. Vasc. Pl. W. Pak. & Kashm. 456. 1972.
Vern.: Arand, Castor-Oil Plant.
An erect, single-stemmed or much-branched shrubby or treelike somewhat glaucous herb upto 5 m, rarely taller. Stems hollow, becoming woody at the base. Young shoots often pruinose. Petioles 5-20 cm long; petiolar glands variously-shaped. Leaf-blades commonly 7-9-lobed, the median lobe usually 10-20 cm long and 2-5 cm wide, sometimes larger, the lateral lobes progressively smaller; lobes lanceolate, acutely acuminate, coarsely glandular-serrate or - biserrate, lateral nerves c. 10-20 pairs, running to the margins, dark green above, paler beneath. Stipular sheath ovate, c. 1-2 cm long, leaving a circular scar when fallen. Inflorescence 10-25 cm long; bracts c. 1 cm long, the bracteoles smaller. Male flowers; pedicels c. 1 cm long; calyx-lobes elliptic-ovate, 6-8 x 3-4 mm, acute, yellowish-green; stamens 7 mm long, anthers 0.5 mm. long, pale yellow. Female flowers: pedicels 3-5 mm. long, extending to 2 cm or more in fruit; sepals lanceolate, 5 mm long, acuminate, purplish; ovary trilobate-subglobose, 2 x 2 mm; styles 3-7 mm long. Fruit trilobate, 1-1.8 x 1-1.5 cm, smooth or sparingly to densely covered with narrowly cylindric bristle-tipped fleshy processes 3-5 mm long. Seeds 7-12 x 5-8 x 4-6 mm, shiny, greyish, silvery or beige generally streaked and flecked with brown; caruncle depressed-conic, 1-2 x 2-3 mm.
Fl. & Fr. Per.: at most seasons.
Lectotype: ‘In both Indies, Africa and Southern Europe’, Hart. Cliff., 450 (BM!).
Distribution: (As for the genus).
Widely planted up to 4000'/1220 in. in the Sub-Himalayan tract and in the plains, and naturalized near villages.
The oil from the seed has many uses - as an illuminant, in medicine as a purgative, in tanning as a leather-preservative, and in industry as a lubricant, especially for delicate machinery; the oil-cake is used for fertilizer and fuel. The Castor Oil Plant exhibits considerable variation in fruit and seed characters, but although attempts have been made to formally categorize the variants, these do not appear to be of much value taxonomically, and not followed here.