Castor Bean | Still Strong | Update 4

Update 4: September 14, 2014

Links to the Original post, Update 1, and Updates 2 & 3.

The plant is now just short of 3 meters (~10 ft) tall. This view gives some perspective to the side of the house. The rain barrel is 1 meter tall.


Prickly pods bearing three beans each are abundant. The structure is 0.5 meters tall (~1.5 ft). The tops of two other stalks are also bearing bean pods. It will take a while for them to dry. We’ve had over 15 cm (6″) of rain the past two weeks. That is not typical for the midwest in September. This is our 4th wettest summer on record in Iowa. The bean plant and everything else continues to thrive on the moisture. I’m getting tired of mowing the lawn.


I watched an episode of Breaking Bad this week. Walter was intent on eliminating a drug lord by extracting ricin from castor beans. They dramatized the handling of the beans only using tweezers. They aren’t nearly as toxic as the show suggested. I don’t plan on testing that out.

Before winter, I will clear the garden. The seed beans will be collected and disposed of so animals and children will not be able to access them.



21 thoughts on “Castor Bean | Still Strong | Update 4

  1. Jim Wheeler

    The adaptation of plants to their environment is remarkable evidence of the power of evolution. Here in southern Missouri, some plants, like native pin oaks, are virtually indestructible, whereas others, like the roses in front of our house are yearly beset by disease and pests. Looks to me like castor beans are very comfortable in Iowa. Or maybe they simply evolved a defensive toxin that would work in many places. The field of genetic-engineered plants has lots of diversity to work with and, I dare say, bears watching. The sixth holocene extinction is about fauna, but the flora appear to be thriving.

    1. Jim in IA Post author

      I agree, evolution creates amazing results. Nature has so many organisms that it can test trial after trial of changes to see which have the most likelihood of success. Those that are more successful live and move on. Nature cares not about the losers.

      I watched a show on PBS this week called Operation Maneater: Crocodile. In part of it, they talked about a giant millipede that has evolved a toxin that smells like rotten eggs. When something disturbs it, out comes the chemical warfare ‘defensive toxin’. It seems to have few if any predators.

  2. Mrs. P

    There she grows!

    Love the plant and the shade it provides, but a bit too much maintenance for me. As for cutting your lawn…welcome to my world.! 😉

    1. Jim in IA Post author

      Mowing will be tomorrow or Tuesday. 😦

      As to maintenance…the only thing I needed to do was stand it back up and stake it when it fell over. Later, the work will come when I need to dispose of it. I will cut off the beans and drag the carcass to the timber out back where the microbes will eat it. It won’t regrow without beans.

  3. shoreacres

    Those seed pods are remarkable. They remind me of the medieval flails. From what you’ve said, the plant can be just as dangerous and destructive.

    On the other hand, they show some similarity to the horse chestnut, too.

    It’s certainly a beautiful plant. It’s been fun watching it grow — and it does seem fully recovered.

    1. Jim in IA Post author

      I wouldn’t want to get hit by or step on those flails. Nasty. The bean pods still have soft points. Later when dried up they will probably be stiff and more dangerous.

    1. Jim in IA Post author

      Drug lords don’t bother me. I’ve been watching Walter on Breaking Bad. He’s a science teacher and takes care of business pretty well. I was a science teacher, too. They’d better watch out. I have some tricks up my sleeve.

  4. Steve Gingold

    That is one very healthy plant. And you’ve done a fine job with the recovery from the fall. As you talk about the plant’s growth and progress, the side of your house looks like a kid’s growth scale on a door jamb. 🙂

    1. Jim in IA Post author

      In a former house, I put marks on the door jamb. Then we moved. I hung a yardstick 3ft off the floor and marked it instead. We moved again and brought it with us.

      Our son’s last mark put him the same as mine. He is now a pilot for the Air Force.


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