Photos of Nerium oleander, Oleander.

Nerium oleander, Oleander is a toxic shrub or small tree in the Apocynaceae, (dogbane family), widely grown in tropical and subtropical regions as an ornamental evergreen, with showy white to pink to red flowers. It is native throughout the Mediterranean region, eastward into Asia. All plant parts are toxic. The acrid poisonous leaves can be fatally toxic to livestock. This very poisonous evergreen tropical is widely grown as an ornamental in the southern United States. People have died from eating the flowers. Even the honey from the flowers is toxic. Spanish soldiers were poisoned by meat which was roasted on spits of the peeled stems. One evening during the Peninsula War (1807-1814), seven of twelve French soldiers who cooked meat on oleander skewers died from oleander poisoning. There are reports of campers poisoned from using the sticks to cook hot dogs or mashmallows. Smoke from the burning wood is reportedly toxic. Even the odor eminating from the flowers has been associated with toxicity. Sleeping under a flowering bush is the lore of fatal tales. Contact with the crushed leaves or stem juice can cause severe contact dermatitis. As little as 15 grams of the dried leaves can kill a cow; 5 grams for a sheep. A single leaf may be fatal to a human. The powerful heart stimulating effects are due to the highly toxic cardiac glycoside oleandrin and related compounds. According to John Parkinson in his 1640 Theatrum Botanicum, "Dioscorides saith it is death to Mules, Dogs, Asses, and many other foure footed beasts, that shall eate thereof . . ." In Gerard's Herball (1633), we learn " . . . if it be inwardly taken it is deadly and poisonsome, not only to men, but also most kindes of beasts . . . The weaker sort of cattell, as sheep and goats, if they drinke the water wherein the leaves have been steeped, are sure to die."

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