Ajuntament de Barcelona

Nerium oleander

Miramar Garden and Camí dels Cims

    Catalan name: 
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    According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the conservation status of this plant is least concern.

    Species characteristics
    Mediterranean area
    Gullies, watercourses and fast-flowing streams of Mediterranean climate at a maximum height of 1,200 m

    Perennial shrub 3-4 m tall, with straight trunk and smooth ashy dun bark. It is very ramified from the trunk's base. When broken, the thick straight flexible branches release a toxic latex.

    The thick leathery leaves, 5-21 cm long and 1-4 cm wide, are simple and opposite or, more often, whorled (they sprout around the stem making a circle) grouped into trios. They are very lanceolate, with entire margin and have a short petiole (5-10 mm). The limb is intense green and have a very marked whitish or yellowish central nerve and many dense pinnate secondary nervations.

    The hermaprodite flowers, 3-5 cm in diameter, are reddish pink or, less usually, white. They appear into corymbs at the branches' end. The fennel-shaped corolla has five star-shaped lobes, with an appendix of 3-4 short jags.

    The woody cylindrical brown fruits, 8-16 cm long, are dehiscent (they open spontaneously to release the seeds). The follicles remain together until the dehiscence, when the fruit opens by the middle and releases its many seeds. The seeds are oblong, without longitudinal groove, and have a hairy pappus at the top, which allows them spread with the wind.

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    Uses and properties: 

    Oleander flowers are toxic to humans and the source of some caterpillars and moths. Contact must be avoided.

    Wood from Oleander is used to make tools and furniture.

    Its use in urban landscaping has to do with the spectacular blossoming and its stregnth.

    History and curiosities: 

    The scientific name, Nerium oleander, consists of the genus name Nerium, coming from the Greek νήριον, "oleander", and the Latin term oleander, coming from olea, "olive tree", because of the resemblance of the oleander leaves and the olive tree leaves.

    The oleander toxicity, plant with a very bitter taste, is so high (it causes death by ingestion) that the popular imagery believes that it is lethal by simply sleeping under its shadow or drinking water from the places where it lives.

    For further information: 

    LÓPEZ GONZÁLEZ, Ginés A. Los árboles y arbustos de la Península Ibérica e Islas Baleares. (2 vol.) Madrid: Mundi-Prensa, 2001

    THE ROYAL HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY. Enciclopedia de plantas y flores. Barcelona: Grijalbo, 1996