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Oleander - A Poisonous Shrub

Updated on May 7, 2017
A Pretty 'Poisnous' Plant
A Pretty 'Poisnous' Plant | Source

Oleander (genus Nerium oleander ) belonging to family Apocynaceae, is a shrub, quite attractive while flowering and is often grown in gardens and public parks. This shrub is known for its beauty and many people prefer it over other shrubs for it is evergreen and fast-growing . It bears almond-smelling flowers in pink, white, yellow and red colors. However, this shrub is extremely toxic and is considered one of the most poisonous plants in the world! In this article I'll overview what's the science behind its toxicity and the concerns associated with its plantation.

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Why is Oleander Poisonous?

Oleander contains many toxic compound including oleandrin and neriine , which are known to be cardiac glycosides (drugs that are used in the treatment of conjunctive heart failure). Despite medicinal usage, these compounds can cause death especially in small children when ingested. Only a small amount of oleander intake has shown adverse effects on human body featuring lethal or near-lethal effects. The glycoside oleandrin when ingested causes serious cardiac problems leading to death. These compounds are present in all parts of the plant and particularly the juice. Oleander bark is said to contain rosagenin which is known for its extreme toxicity (equal to a rat-killing poison).

How Much Poisonous is Oleander?

The toxicity of oleander is so extreme that it remains toxic even after drying. It is thought that a single leaf of this plant can take away the life of a child. Here are some shocking statistics quoted from Wikipedia:

"According to the Toxic Exposure Surveillance System (TESS) in 2002 there were 847 exposures to oleander reported to poison centers in the United States. There are innumerable reported suicidal cases of consuming mashed oleander seeds in southern India. Around 0.23 mg per pound of body weight is lethal to many animals, and various other doses will affect other animals. Most animals can suffer a reaction or death from this plant."

Pictures to Identify Oleander Shrubs

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What Are the Symptoms of Oleander Poisoning?

When ingested, oleander reacts by causing nausea and vomiting, excess salivation, abdominal pain, diarrhea , and irregular heart rate . In severe reaction one can get pale in seconds due to poor or irregular blood circulation and in extreme it results in nervous system failure leading to coma and eventually death .

What to Do in Case of Oleander Poisoning?

The toxic compounds in oleander react quite quickly, so the victim must be given medical treatment immediately. As a first aid induce vomiting to ascertain minimal absorption of poison. Seek immediate medical assistant at an emergency number (like 911).

How to be Safe With this Shrub?

First and foremost -Never ever try to ingest any part of this shrub!

Secondly, even the contact of oleander with skin may cause reaction -so BEWARE!

Lastly, if you're a gardener, avoid planting this shrub at all cost. If you're not a gardener, even then it's your responsibility to let others know about the plant's toxicity. Stay yourself, your children and pets stay away from this pretty shrub -the results can be devastating!

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      R.P. 4 years ago

      Hey guys, lets pick on oleanders, how about Rhododendron (azalea), Even the smoke will kill you... Too many plants that are poisenouse to pick on the beautiful oleander...

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      Christinab6275 5 years ago

      Does any one know if there is a way you can become poisoned by the dust that comes from cutting the oleander down? You know like inhaling the flakes of bark that would come off when you saw it down?

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      Common Sense 5 years ago

      Hey. Yes i know childeren may consume the leaves ect but come on. this is not the only poisenouse plant around. Just a bit of common sense and they make a lovely feature to any garden. UK...

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      Spider Girl 5 years ago from the Web

      @tjl I'm glad you found this article and got to know about the toxicity of this plant! I hope everyone gets aware of this. Please keep your kids safe around such plants.

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      tjl 5 years ago

      I just bought an oleander bush from my local orchard. I even had my daughter with me when we purchased it. No one at the place even told me they were poisonous. They lady even told me to bring the bush inside during winter months. I only found out it was poisonous when looking for info on how to prune it. Luckily my daughter listens well when we tell her which plants not to touch, but hearing how deadly it is makes me want to get rid of it. I would never be able to forgive myself if this plant ended up killing someone. I trimmed off some of the dead blooms today and juices got onto the scissors i used. I washed them really well, but now I'm afraid to use them. I'm sure I'm being a little paranoid.

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      Spider Girl 6 years ago from the Web

      @cookingdiva, please let other know about its poisoning hazards...thanks for it was of help to you!

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      cookingdiva 6 years ago

      Great and useful info. I did not know these plant were poisonous.

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      Spider Girl 6 years ago from the Web

      @laughing loon, great piece of info for everyone reading this hub -I really feel sad for those kids. Many people never know how deadly some plants are and I'm trying to spread awareness -it's just a part of my series on deadly plants. I hope to reveal all of them, may my hubs are of use to masses who visit Hubpages!

    • laughing loon profile image

      Lynda -Bailey 6 years ago from South Los Angeles

      Great hub! People do not realise how dangerouse this shrub is. According to the paper in the Los Angeles area a few years ago two small children died the week they were adopted from the Eastern block to So. Cal. The parents were arrested. The only thing found during the autopsy was a part of a leaf in the stomach of each child. The leaf tested to be oleander. The parents were released and it was ruled as an accidental poisening. Those two children were less than 10 feet from home and they died. The leaf was from a neighbors border a few feet from their front door. In a few minutes they were gone. So if you have oleander, and children, get rid of one cause the two are deadly together.