06 Mar Highly Poisonous Plant
Have you seen this plant?
Ricinus communis (more commonly known as the castor bean or castor oil plant) is a highly poisonous plant that grows throughout Australia and New Zealand. Often found in vacant plots of land and unkept gardens, the castor oil plant is fast-growing and produces spiny seed capsules that each hold several seeds. When ripe, the seed capsules rupture and launch the seeds up to a few metres from the plant.
Within the seeds is a highly poisonous compound called ricin. When ingested, ricin enters cells and inhibits protein synthesis resulting in cell death. Small ingestions of the castor oil plant can result in serious poisoning and whilst there is no antidote, early veterinary treatment can be lifesaving.
Signs of poisoning can include abdominal tenderness, vomiting and diarrhoea (which may contain blood), weakness and multiple organ injury or failure. Whilst cases are rare, dogs can be seriously poisoned or even die from eating this plant. A range of other animals, including horses, sheep, pigs, rabbits, geese, and cattle can also be affected. If you are a pet owner and see this plant growing on your property, it is best removed. Do not allow your pets access to (or in the immediate vicinity of) any established castor oil plants.
If your pet has ingested something they should not have, please phone the Animal Poisons Helpline 1300 869 738 (AU) or 0800 869 738 (NZ) for advice. The Animal Poisons Helpline provides a free service for all pet owners in Australia and New Zealand, and we can rapidly determine if your pet requires immediate veterinary assessment or can be observed at home.
The Animal Poisons Helpline is proudly sponsored by Bow Wow Meow for Pets, who are currently offering two months free pet insurance in the first year of coverage for Helpline followers. Visit bowwowinsurance.com.au/poisons and enter AP368 at checkout to take advantage of this offer.