Oleander is an evergreen ornamental shrub growing
up to 4 metres feet high with beautiful white, pink or red flowers
in spring and summer. The leaves are similar to those of olive and
bay trees, and the flowers have five petals and resemble a tiny rose.
It originates from the Mediterranean and the Middle East, although
it can now be found as an ornamental plant in many parts of the world.
It grows in sandy and chalky places with full sun, especially in the
beds of Mediterranean riverbeds that remain dry most of the year. It
thrives in hot, mild climates and tolerates considerable drought, poor
drainage and high salt content in the soil. In Crete, because goats
will not eat the plant and it is so tolerant of poor soils, it is commonly
used as a decorative highway screen.
beautiful and with a sweet aroma, all parts of the plant are highly
poisonous to humans and other animals - so much so that simply stirring
a cup of tea with a twig while on a picnic claimed a human life. The
powdered wood is used in Europe to kill rats, and humans have been
poisoned by inhaling the smoke from its burning wood. Children should
be cautioned against eating the leaves and flowers, prunings and dead
leaves should be kept away from hay or other animal feed, and the wood
should not be used for barbecue fires or skewers.