Best avoided

YOU FIND this plant on derelict urban land, when you are out foraging or, perhaps, in that weedy, wild growth not far from your community garden. It is the fruit that attracts people to this plant, fruit that starts green and turns red as it ripens. Don’t be tempted to nibble on it, though, for you may be in for an unpleasant surprise.

The castor oil shrub is common on poorly maintained urban land in temperate to tropical areas and it is possible that people clearing and preparing such land for new commuity gardens will encounter it.

…It is also the source of ricin, a powerful poison…

It grows to perhaps two metres in height and has palmate (like a spread out palm of the hand) leaves, as well as those green or ripe red fruit covered in soft spikes.
Inside that fruit is a seed that is the source of castor oil. It is also the source of ricin, a powerful poison, which is why the plant is best avoided when foraging.

I photographed this specimen growing in a pile of waste materials and soils down the back of Randwick Community Centre in Sydney.

Has anyone encountered castor oil bush near theoir community garden? What about on urban derelict land? What did you do with it?

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