The castor bean plant, or ricinus communis, is a favorite among many gardeners due to its colorful, tropical foliage and vigorous growth. The seeds of the castor bean plant contain ricin, a potent poison with no known antidote. Gardeners should check with local municipal codes prior to planting castor bean s to ensure it is not unlawful. Additionally, gardeners with children or pets must be extremely careful as the plant's seeds present a danger to people and animals.

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Castor Bean Plant: Pretty but Poisonous

General Law

The United States restricts the possession or use of ricin since it is a potential weapon of biological terrorism. According to the 2002 Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness Act, possessing, using or transferring ricin is prohibited. There are no federal regulations restricting the possession of castor bean plants. According to a 2004 Congressional Research Service Report, castor bean plants and seeds are "openly sold" in the United States. There are, however, some states or cities (such as Hayward, Calif.) which have banned the castor bean plant.

Prohibited by the City of Hayward

Hayward, Calif., prohibits the possession of the castor bean plant, seeds or beans. According to Chapter 3, article 7 of the municipal code, it is illegal to knowingly plant the castor bean, to nurture any castor bean plant or to keep castor beans or seeds within the City. Anyone possessing the plant or seeds will receive a notice and must remove the plant, seeds and beans from his property within 48 hours. Refusal or failure to do so may result in police action.

Exceptions

According to section 3-7.02, anyone engaged in verifiable scientific or research activities may qualify as an exception to the law. In this instance, the exception allows for display of the castor bean plant in a botanical collection. Additional provisions mandate that the area in which castor bean plants are grown be enclosed and/or inaccessible to prevent small children from entering. The exceptions also allow for the possession of castor bean plants or seeds for retail/wholesale sales purposes; but mandates that the plants or seeds are kept in securely sealed containers with clearly legible labels indicating the plant's poisonous nature.

Violation

The violation of Hayward's castor bean plant restriction will be considered dangerous to public health, hazardous to the City's population and a public nuisance. Section 3-7.06 gives the city's Chief of Police the authority to investigate the violation, notify the offending person and enforce the law. This may result in forcible removal of the plant and possible fines.