The Most Poisonous Plant in the World

Castor oil seeds

Castor oil seeds-Ricinus communis

Title for the most poisonous plant in the world goes to the common Castor Plant. Yup, the same plant responsible for producing castor oil.

All parts of the plant are poisonous but it is the seeds containing ricin that have earned its number one position on the list of deadly plants.

A single seed can kill a human (though it usually requires more) but it isn’t a quick death. Abdominal pain, vomiting and bloody diarrhea can last from two to five days before a person finally succumbs to dehydration.

Animals fare slightly better than humans, only in that it takes more seeds to kill them. Body size doesn’t seem to be a factor. It requires four seeds to kill a rabbit, five to kill a sheep, six a horse, seven a pig and eleven for a cat. Ducks can consume a whopping eighty Castor seeds before things go seriously wrong.

Castor bean in garden

With large, showy, palm shaped leaves and thick stalks capable of growing 2-3 meters (6-9 feet) in a single season these tropical perennials, or cool weather annuals, are highly prized as decorative additions to public landscaping and private gardens, as well as a commercial source for medicinal castor oil.

To make the medicine children love to hate, the toxic protein ricin is removed from the seeds during the process of extracting the oil. Harvesting the plant can be risky with workers sometimes suffering permanent nerve damage.

Castor Oil is used medicinally as a laxative. Other uses of Castor Oil and its by products include soaps, perfume, polish, automotive fluids, paint, ink, plastic, wax.  It is also used as a food additive and preservative.

The name Castor Oil is thought to come from “castoreum” a perfume base originally sourced from the perineal glands of a beaver. Later castoreum was replaced by the oil derived from a castor bean, a change that the poor beavers no doubt applauded with much tail slapping.

A playful beaver

Castor Bean plant seeds are commonly sold on racks in department and nursery stores under various names and varieties. Look for Ricinus in the Latin name if there is any doubt. And of course, whatever you do, keep them away from children and animals.

Transplanting Peas…Who Knew?

Planting seeds

If you subscribe to you will have already received this video on how to start peas in a gutter for easy transplanting into the garden. If not, click on this link and check it out. It’s a great idea for getting a jump on the season and avoiding having mice eat the seeds or birds scratch them up onto the surface in their search of worms (that was always my biggest problem). It would work for sweet peas too and who knows what else? The roots are minimally disturbed using this method. Check it out!


Hottest Pepper in the World

very strongly hot pepper Carolina Reaper

The Hot, Hot, Hot, Carolina Reaper


The current record holder for the hottest pepper in the world belongs to The Carolina Reaper. This cross between the former record burning Ghost Pepper and a Habanero ranges from 1,500,000 to 2,200,000 SCU (Scoville Heat Units).

To help wrap your tongue around the kind of heat The Carolina Reaper packs, consider this. Those jalapeno peppers that make your eyes water and have you lunging for the water glass? They ring in at a measly 2,500 – 10,000 SCU.  Yup, The Carolina Reaper is hot. Crazy hot.

“Smokin” Ed Currie  who owns PuckerButt Pepper Company in Fort Mill created The Carolina Reaper in his Rock Hill, South Carolina greenhouse. His interest in growing peppers that pack a punch peaked when he learned that indigenous people who ate a lot of hot peppers had very low incidents of heart disease and cancer; two diseases that plagued Ed’s family. He started experimenting with growing peppers in the 1990’s and has been spicing up the pepper world ever since.

Seeds and sauces can be purchased straight from PuckerButt Pepper Company.

Whenever I hear about hot pepper stories I think of the one Lois Hole tells in her book “I’ll Never Marry a Farmer”.  One summer the founders of Hole Greenhouses in St Albert, Edmonton Canada found themselves inundated with an assortment of peppers. They set about chopping up and freezing their huge harvest. At one point Lois’s husband Ted excuses himself to use the washroom. Lois’s chopping is interrupted by a horrible yell from the bathroom. Everyone washes their hands after they use the facilities but who does it before? Not Ted. You can read the whole story here!

A lesson learned for pepper chopping men out there. Especially The Carolina Reaper. Respect the Reaper.

What is the Largest Flower in the World?

Rafflesia, the biggest flower in the world, Sumatra, Indonesia

The largest flower in the world is the Rafflesia arnoldii from the rainforests of Indonesia. It can grow up to one meter (three feet) across and weigh up to 6.8 kilograms (15 pounds).

The flower is all there is to the plant-there are no visible leaves, stems or roots. Just one big blossom. A parasitic plant, Rafflesia arnoldii draws all of its food and water from a host plant.

Rafflesia flower in Borneo jungle

As eye engaging as this blossom might be, you don’t want to lug it home for a centerpiece on the dining room table. Its smell is most often likened to rotting meat. This questionable choice of odor is perfectly suited for attracting necessary pollinators…but not people.

It is still an incredible sight to behold…even if you will be holding your nose while you snap a few pictures!

Using Rocks to Create Warmer Zones

Did you know you can use rocks in your garden to increase your garden zone rating? Planting a Zone 3 or even Zone 4 tree next to a massive boulder can be a successful use of rocks in our zone 2b or not 2b gardens. The rock will absorb heat during those late spring and early fall days and release it at night, meaning those early and late frosts can be outsmarted.

creeping charlie in a rock garden

Garden of Linda & Darryl Veiner of Rolla, BC

In the winter the rock absorbs the cold, helping to keep the area cooler during an untimely chinook. Constant freezing and thawing can be deadly to less hardy trees, shrubs and perennials. A big rock will help keep the temperature from fluctuating. It will also delay the plant from emerging too early in the spring, by “holding its coldness”.

What is the Most Expensive Spice in the World?

Dried saffron spice and Saffron flower


The dried stigma of the purple flower Saffron Crocus sativus  is the most expensive spice in the world. The fragile flowers need to be handpicked in the autumn as soon as they are fully open. It requires anywhere from 50,000 to 75,000 flowers to produce a single pound of saffron.

One pound of high quality Saffron can retail for as much as five thousand dollars making it far more valuable than gold.

Interested in growing and harvesting your own saffron? You will need approximately six plants for one recipe.


Rose Fragrance by Color


Roses traditionally come in the following seven scent categories…

  1. Apple
  2. Clove
  3. Lemon
  4. Nasturtium
  5. Rose
  6. Tea
  7. Violet


Did you know that you can make an educated guess of what a rose will smell like simply by looking at is color?

wild rose isolated

Red and pink roses are the only ones that carry the standard rose scent.



Orange roses often emit scents of apple and clove.


bouquet of fresh roses


White or Yellow roses often have a lemon fragrance.


Orange, white and yellow roses can also give off hints of nasturtium, tea or violet.