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I just bought this house and am trying to make sure everything in my yard is safe for my kids. Can you tell me what this plant is? It is about 3 feet tall, and seems to have burr-like clusters near the back. I'm in Southern California, if that helps. No idea whether it was planted intentionally. Unidentified plant

Here are more images. http://imgur.com/a/xzgjO

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I'm pretty sure it's Ricinus communis; its not entirely clear from the photo because of the way the light falls, but as you've got young children, I suggest you remove it. The seeds are highly toxic, but the biggest problem with this plant is its fine pollen when in flower, which can cause asthma attacks. Allergic responses to the leaves and stems are not uncommon either, so although its generally safe if you don't eat it, I wouldn't choose to grow it where there are young children. As you don't know whether it was deliberately planted or not, its probably wise to keep a check next year in case it's seeded itself and others pop up, though if you live somewhere with colder winters, that's much less likely. More info here https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ricinus

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    There's no red tinge to it, like all the pictures I see of Ricinus communis. I'm going to take some more pictures and just post links to them, since it won't let me post more than one picture. – Cassandra Gelvin Nov 30 '16 at 20:43
  • There are 'red' versions, R. communis 'Red Giant' for instance, which is often used in decorative planting displays, but also a plain green version, like this one, but post more pics by all means – Bamboo Nov 30 '16 at 20:46
  • I concur. The plant has one more problem. The roots go really deep, are thick and if left too long will become a problem. We have had trouble with this plant in our yard in No. Cal. It is also a self-seeding plant, so it might not have been planted intentionally. – Srihari Yamanoor Nov 30 '16 at 21:27
  • Thanks! I put more pictures up just in case anyone else stumbles on this question. A visiting gardener also agrees with you. – Cassandra Gelvin Nov 30 '16 at 21:40
  • Those pics are much clearer, confirming the ID as R.communis – Bamboo Nov 30 '16 at 21:44
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Also know as Castor Bean. It is toxic to pets as well. I would dig it out as deeply as possible and then monitor the area for offshoots. Dig those out as soon as they come up.

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That is a castor bean tree. The leaves are called the hand of God because it is thought they have healing properties. The red spikey balls on them contain seeds, which contain a poison called ricin. They are very dangerous; if ingested, ricin will kill you. The seeds look like kidney beans. I save a few seeds for next year. It is a dangerous plant if you have kids that try to eat them.

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