Medical Herbs Catalogue



otanical: Nerium oleander

Synonyms: Oleander, Rose Bay, Rose Bay Tree

An evergreen ornamental shrub to 12 feet high and as wide with white, pink or red flowers in spring and summer. The leaves resemble olive and bay trees. The flowers have five petals and resemble a tiny rose. It thrives in hot, mild climates and tolerates considerable drought, poor drainage and high salt content in the soil. Since deer will not eat this plant and it is so tolerant of a variety of poor soils, it is commonly used as a decorative freeway median in California and other mild-winter states in the USA.

All parts of the plant are poisonous to humans and other animals. Children should be cautioned against eating the leaves and flowers. Prunings and dead leaves should be kept away from hay or other animal feed. The wood should not be used for barbecue fires or skewers. The smoke can cause severe irritation. John Gerard says (from "The Herbal, or General History of Plants", 1633 edition), "This tree being outwardly applied, as Galen saith, hath a digesting faculty; but if it be inwardly taken it is deadly and poisonsome, not only to men, but also to most kinds of beasts."

The flowers and leaves kill dogs, asses, mules, and very many of other four footed beasts: but if men drink them in wine they are a remedy against the bitings of Serpents, and the rather if Rue be added.

The weaker sort of cattle, as sheep and goats, if they drink the water wherein the leaves have been steeped, are sure to die."