Montecito Heights volunteers take on a poisonous problem: The Castor Bean

Feb 5, 2013

The deadly Castor Bean.  Photo by Martha Benedict

Along with the Tree of  Heaven, one of the invasive plants to thrive in the empty lots and hillsides of the Eastide is the Castor Bean plant.  The tree-like shrub  with reddish-green leaves can quickly crowd out native plants and its seeds are toxic to human as well as many animals. On Saturday, a group of volunteers with the Montecito Heights Improvement Assn.  spent several hours carefully digging up some of the plants from Flattop hill, according to Martha Benedict, who took photos.  The Castor Bean have to be removed carefully because  the seeds can spread easily, which is the case when they are whacked to pieces during brush clearance.

“We should do some more of this while it is still the rainy season,” said Benedict. ” The ground stays soft enough to pull out the plants to their roots.”

The plants were disposed of in black trash bins to ensure they would be hauled away to a landfill.

Ingesting only two castor beans, which contain Ricin, a toxic protein, can prove deadly, according to California Invasive Plant Council.

Carl Haney shows off his Castor Bean haul. Photo by Martha Benedict


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