General DescriptionNerium oleander, commonly known as oleander, is a highly toxic plant that has been cultivated since ancient times.

Nerium oleander is a highly toxic ornamental shrub widely cultivated in the Mediterranean. It has been grown since ancient times and features in many of the Roman wall paintings in Pompeii.

Alexander the Great in his military campaigns is said to have lost men as a result of eating meat skewered on highly poisonous Nerium twigs.

Species ProfileGeography and distribution

Native to the Mediterranean region, Iran, the Indian subcontinent and southern China.


Overview:  An evergreen shrub (or small tree) that grows to approximately 6 m. A sticky latex is exuded if the stem is cut.

Leaves: Leaves are usually in groups of three and narrowly lanceolate.

Flowers: The flowers are tubular with five lobes, red or pink in the wild, but may be white, cream, yellow or purple in cultivars, and double forms have also been selected. Some are scented.

Fruits: The fruit is composed of a pair of follicles that split along one side to release the seeds. The seeds are oblong, with a plume of hairs at one end.

Threats and conservation

Oleander is not threatened globally. Plants are threatened in the wild in some areas through excessive development, but will persist in cultivation.

Uses Ornamental

Nerium oleander is widely cultivated as an ornamental shrub or as an informal hedge in warm-temperate and dry subtropical regions, and as a plant for the conservatory in cooler climates.

Pest control

Oleander is highly poisonous to humans, pets, livestock and birds due to the presence of cardiac glycosides, mainly oleandrin. Ingestion causes nausea, vomiting, cardiac arrhythmias, hypotension (low blood pressure) and death. Its sap has been used as rat poison. The leaves also show insecticidal activity against sugarcane mite and citrus leafminer.


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