As we move ever closer to sowing silly season, I’m reminded of my favourite annuals and of how rewarding they are as a branch of horticulture. The undeniable King of the annuals (where Lathyrus odoratus is arguably the Queen) has got to be Ricinis communis. Although, not a true annual, merely grown as one in climates with frost, though I may make it my mission to see if I can get one through the winter.
Commonly used as a spot plant in fucking awful bedding scheme carry on, Ricinis is fantastic in a mixed border, where it spreads its glossy palmate leaves out and grows rampantly in amongst other plant foliage and flower helping to create a lush, textural miasma that invokes a scene that makes you want to jump into the bed and rub all the things over yourself.
But don’t do that with Ricinis. Like a lot of my favourite things, it is quite poisonous, being the origin of the Russian’s fave Ricin, extracted from the concentration high seeds, though toxins are found at lower doses all through the plant. Ricinis is a member of another of my favourite families, Euphorbiaceae, a family that always seems to contain some sort of irritating chemical component or downright death juice.
The growth that Ricinis is capable of putting on in a season is incredible and an example of how incredibly amazing plants are! How something can go from fat seed in April (that germinate easily with a bit of gentle bum heat) to an eight foot glossy giant with a stem six inches or more in circumference in September, using only the nutrients from the soil and a bit of sunshine (that’s all they get in Ireland) and some (lots in Ireland) of water is just properly awesome.
There are a few Ricinis varieties that are worth growing, R. Gibsonii flourishes browny red with an almost metallic undertone with good pronounced ‘redder’ veins. R.Carmencita unfurls pinky tinged foliage and stems, R.Impala is the reddest and shortest, reaching only about a metre in a season, but produces an impressive bout of colour, R. Zanzibarensis is my favourite, throwing out lush green huge leaves and lofty fat stems. Each variety produces impressive seed pods late season (Sep/Oct), of which the name ‘Ricinis‘ was derived from, since they resemble a tick of the insect type of which ‘Ricinis’ is latin for. Confusingly, ‘Ricinis’ is also an entomological group of, non-tick related, avian parasites… not just the botanical taxonomic world that is vaguely annoying then!