The Oleander – Beautiful, But Deadly

It is the time of year to plant in the garden. The vegetable bed is one of the first plantings of spring for most of us. Flowers, trees and shrubs usually come next.

Flowers and shrubs are plentiful at the garden center. When choosing a plant, many of us want a specific flower. My first choice is pink and purple. For others, red is a very popular color in the garden.

Before you choose that perfect plant, ask, “Is this plant poisonous to animals and children?” The Texas A&M website has a list of poisonous plants. Just follow the link here for more information.

Oleanders’ scientific name is Nerium oleander, and they are available in North Texas. This plant grows well, has beautiful flowers, and requires very little maintenance. It is, however, highly poisonous. All parts of the plant, not just the flowers.

“The plant’s use as a poison is well-known,” reports WebMD (click here for more info). “Oleander is reportedly a favorite suicide agent in Sri Lanka, where oleander poisonings exceed 150 per 100,000 people each year. About 10 percent of those cases are fatal.”

Along with this, there is an urban myth listed here on Snopes that has given the plant a bad name. A concerned citizen writes, “I understand that any part of the oleander plant is toxic to all mammals. However, my veterinarian told me a story about a family cooking hot dogs over a fire while camping. Supposedly, the family unwittingly speared the dogs with branches from an oleander to cook them over the fire. All of the family members succumbed to oleander poisoning, which affected the heart.” Click on the link above to find out what Snopes had to say!

Plant your oleander, enjoy the beauty of it, but if you have small children or dogs be aware that this plant is poisonous!

Happy planting!

Jane Slone writes articles on gardening for EllisDownHome.comJane grew up in Dallas, and moved with her husband to Ellis County 25 years ago. She opened three flower shops, operated, and eventually sold the shops. She taught Microbiology and Anatomy & Physiology at the college level and retired 26 years later. She loves to garden and has become a Master Gardener. Her joy is teaching others about gardening! 


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