Lethal Explosions

Take a look at the seeds in my hand. One of those seeds is enough to kill a dog. Three of those seeds will kill a child. Eight will kill an adult.

I came about them in an odd way. It was raining, and I had an appointment with one of our corporate partners. His office was in a strip mall. I went to the office and rang the bell. No one was there. I walked around to the back of the building. I saw this lovely plant that looked like it had come from the dinosaur era. It had big ragged leaves. It had a lovely green hue with red in it. The plant had these prickly berries.

I picked the berries for the possibility of planting the seeds in my garden. (See my entry on garbage garden). I put the seeds into the catch-all center console of the BMW. After waiting around for a bit, I decided that the meeting was a no-go. As I drove back to the office, the shone broke out, and the day became stinky hot in this tropical paradise.

The car was parked in the sun. The wet seed pods were drying out. Later on that day, I drove home. As I was driving, I heard a pop, and was hit in the head by a seed pod. Then another pop, and the seed pop was flung into the windshield. Suddenly the seed pods were popping like popcorn. I put my appointments book on top of the console, and left it there as the rest of the pods popped. The seeds separated from the pods, and what you see in the pic, are the inner seeds.

I researched the plant and found that it was the castor bean plant. They press the seeds to get castor oil. However the seeds contain ricin -- a potent poison that can kill. Here is what wikipedia has to say about ricin:

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Castor beans Ricinis a protein toxin that is extracted from the castor bean (Ricinus communis).

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) gives a possible minimum figure of 500 micrograms (about the size of a grain of salt) for the lethal dose of ricin in humans if exposure is from injection or inhalation.

Ricin is poisonous if inhaled, injected, or ingested, acting as a toxin by the inhibition of protein synthesis. While there is no known antidote, the US military has developed a vaccine. Symptomatic and supportive treatment is available. Long term organ damage is likely in survivors. Ricin causes severe diarrhea and victims can die of shock. Abrin is a similar toxin.
Deaths caused by ingestion of castor oil plant seeds are rare. Eight beans are considered toxic for an adult. A solution of saline and glucose has been used to treat ricin overdose.

So, not only does the seed pod explode, but it contains a powerful poison. I wondered what to do with the seeds. With a fatalistic shrug, I tossed them in the garden to see if they would grow. I will keep you informed of how and if they sprout.

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