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For Immediate Release:
September 25, 2012
Media Contact:
Alejandra Castro Nuñez

Never eat fruits from unidentified trees

(MIAMI, September 25, 2012) - Miami-Dade County Cooperative Extension Service is advising residents to refrain from eating fruits from unidentified trees.  Last month, extension agents learned of an incident involving a homeowner who was given a fruit tree as a papaya seedling.

The homeowner planted the seedling and the ‘fruit tree’ grew.  It had large leaves a bit like a papaya, but eventually the fruits appeared ‘like cherries with soft thorns’ and convinced the homeowner that it was not a papaya plant.  The homeowner sent two photos to the Miami-Dade Extension Office and the plant was identified as a castor bean plant (Ricinus communis) a source of ricin, and one of the most deadly plant poisons known. 

The resident was advised to remove the plant immediately, especially since as well as being poisonous, the seeds are rather pleasant tasting.  Castor bean plant was formerly used locally as a fast growing landscape plant, but apart from being poisonous it is also weedy.  Consequently, and the sale, propagation and planting are now banned in Miami-Dade.

For information on Florida friendly landscaping, visit the Florida Yards & Neighborhoods website at

The Miami-Dade Cooperative Extension is a partnership of the Department of Regulatory and Economic Resources and the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.