Castor bean (Ricinus communis) is an oilseed crop that belongs to the spurge (Euphorbiaceae) family, which comprises approximately 6,300 species that include cassava (Manihot esculenta), rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis) and physic nut (Jatropha curcas). It is primarily of economic interest as a source of castor oil, used for the production of high-quality lubricants because of its high proportion of the unusual fatty acid ricinoleic acid. However, castor bean genomics is also relevant to biosecurity as the seeds contain high levels of ricin, a highly toxic, ribosome-inactivating protein. Here we report the draft genome sequence of castor bean (4.6-fold coverage), the first for a member of the Euphorbiaceae. Whereas most of the key genes involved in oil synthesis and turnover are single copy, the number of members of the ricin gene family is larger than previously thought. Comparative genomics analysis suggests the presence of an ancient hexaploidization event that is conserved across the dicotyledonous lineage.