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The castor tree grows quickly here, and within 4 or 5 generations of growth, the branches have lost their pith cavity and become solid. The trunks within a year can be 8 -10 inches in diameter at the base, of solid, oily 'wood'.

Is that oily wood good for firewood if I let it dry? I'm considering splitting it.

Other options include burying it or using it as posts.

I have read a lot of online articles now about the plant, but not one has mentioned the wood. When I prune I 'chop and drop' the branches, which are hollow.

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It's really hard to get something definitive on this - I have discovered that Ricinus communis wood, or a whole plant, is burned in the centre of a bonfire lit for religious reasons during a festival called Holika Dahan celebrated in India, without apparent ill effects, but that is burning outdoors, not indoors.

All other reliable information seems to pertain to the seeds or beans being highly toxic. Cornell University talks about aphids being killed within 24 hours of penetrating the phloem system of the plant, which suggests the sap itself is, to some extent toxic. On the other hand, the leaves from the plant are fed to silk worms, so either they're immune or the leaves don't contain toxic levels. Ricin is concentrated in the beans or seeds, and Wikipedia suggests that ricin is present in other parts of the plant, but in much smaller quantities. Even so, the oil from pressed castor beans is used in lamps in other parts of the world, mixed with kerosene usually. The fact its used in this way is probably meaningless, because once the beans are pressed, any ricin is left behind in the crushed beans, not actually in the oil's first pressing. I can find no warnings about wearing gloves when handling the plant, nor when pruning it.

There are various other sites which I don't consider trustworthy saying various things about Ricinus - everything from toxic pollen to toxic leaves and mass murder being possible by inhaling ricin (it's not), but finding out whether its completely safe to burn the wood appears to be next to impossible. If I find anything else that's definitive, I'll add it later.

UPDATE: Found another site (Mediterranean Garden Society) listing various plants which are dangerous if burned - Ricinus is not one of them - the one it mentions is Cestrum nocturnum, which produces toxic smoke if burned. It does include Ricinus as a toxic plant, but the entry is restricted to the seeds and their consumption/use. Residue from processing the beans for oil is 'cleaned' and turned into fertilizers, which might mean a possible allergic reaction if any dust is inhaled when the fertilizer is being distributed.

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We're talking here about Ricinus Communis, the producer of Castor Beans and also a highly toxic source of Ricin contained within its sap. It is recommended to not get the sap in your mouth or eyes (possibly deadly) and to only handle trimmings with gloves.

Ricin is particularly abundant in the resins and oils, drying doesn't get rid of it. Burning it would probably be a really bad idea. Aerosolized Ricin and all that entails. Kind of like burning oleander or poison oak, don't get downwind.

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  • This answer totally makes sense, and you've made a great observation here, but I need to turn that probably a bad idea into a solid yes or no. A lot of probably bad ideas are really superstitions, and some things that seem okay are really dangerous. Also, one of the varieties of castor I have here has been genetically modified to be less poisonous, does this affect the wood as well? – Alex May 14 '15 at 11:51
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As a child in Georgia my mother grew Castor bean plants. Us kids would play with the seed pods. And would light the dry hollow stems and pretend they were cigarettes. I don't recall any ill affects. Although I'm only 70 and it could still happen. 🙂

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