1. Family: Apocynaceae Juss.
    1. Genus: Nerium L.
      1. Nerium oleander L.

        Nerium oleander is a highly toxic ornamental shrub widely cultivated in the Mediterranean. It has been grown since ancient times and features in many of the Roman wall paintings in Pompeii.


    Kew Species Profiles

    General Description
    Nerium oleander, commonly known as oleander, is a highly toxic plant that has been cultivated since ancient times.

    Nerium oleander is a highly toxic ornamental shrub widely cultivated in the Mediterranean. It has been grown since ancient times and features in many of the Roman wall paintings in Pompeii.

    Alexander the Great in his military campaigns is said to have lost men as a result of eating meat skewered on highly poisonous Nerium twigs.

    Species Profile
    Geography and distribution

    Native to the Mediterranean region, Iran, the Indian subcontinent and southern China.


    Overview: An evergreen shrub (or small tree) that grows to approximately 6 m. A sticky latex is exuded if the stem is cut.

    Leaves: Leaves are usually in groups of three and narrowly lanceolate.

    Flowers:The flowers are tubular with five lobes, red or pink in the wild, but may be white, cream, yellow or purple in cultivars, and double forms have also been selected. Some are scented.

    Fruits: The fruit is composed of a pair of follicles that split along one side to release the seeds. The seeds are oblong, with a plume of hairs at one end.

    Threats and conservation

    Oleander is not threatened globally. Plants are threatened in the wild in some areas through excessive development, but will persist in cultivation.


    Nerium oleander is widely cultivated as an ornamental shrub or as an informal hedge in warm-temperate and dry subtropical regions, and as a plant for the conservatory in cooler climates.

    Pest control

    Oleander is highly poisonous to humans, pets, livestock and birds due to the presence of cardiac glycosides, mainly oleandrin. Ingestion causes nausea, vomiting, cardiac arrhythmias, hypotension (low blood pressure) and death. Its sap has been used as rat poison. The leaves also show insecticidal activity against sugarcane mite and citrus leafminer.


    Oleandrin is used for treating cardiac conditions in patients who cannot tolerate digitalis. In traditional medicine, the leaves have been used for a variety of medicinal purposes, including the treatment of heart diseases, as a diuretic, antibacterial, and against snake-bite.The roots have been used externally in traditional medicine for treating cancer, ulcers and leprosy.


    In Western Sahara the ash from Nerium oleanderis mixed with saltpetre to make gunpowder.

    Millennium Seed Bank: Seed storage

    Kew's Millennium Seed Bank Partnership aims to save plant life world wide, focusing on plants under threat and those of most use in the future. Seeds are dried, packaged and stored at a sub-zero temperature in our seed bank vault.

    Two collections of Nerium oleander seeds are held in Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank based at Wakehurst in West Sussex.

    See Kew's Seed Information Database for further information on Nerium oleander seeds


    A tender plant, Nerium oleander can survive light frosts, but show signs of frost damage. It is a common landscape plant in tropical and subtropical climates and grows in a wide range of soils. It can withstand drought and salt spray, being widely used in coastal areas, and reacts well to full sun or partial shade. The species can be propagated by semi-ripened cuttings in summer or seeds. Hard pruning helps to maintain its shape.

    China, India
    Found mostly in seasonally dry rocky watercourses, in full sun.
    Least Concern according to IUCN Red List criteria.

    All parts of the plant are extremely toxic if eaten; contact with the sap may cause dermatitis; avoid inhaling smoke if burning plants.


    Apocynaceae, E.A. Omino. Flora of Tropical East Africa. 2002

    A shrub or small tree.
    Leaves opposite or ternate, thick and poisonous.
    Attractive, fragrant flowers that are white, crimson or pink.
    Digestive System Disorders
    Contra la disentería, los cogollos preparados en cocimiento y administrados por vía oral. Other plant parts - Biblioteca digital de la medicina tradicional mexicana.
    Respiratory System Disorders
    En Guerrero, la infusión de las hojas, aplicada en gotas en las fosas nasales, en caso de catarro constipado. Leaves - Biblioteca digital de la medicina tradicional mexicana.
    Skin or Subcutaneous Cellular Tissue Disorders
    En Morelos, el principal uso medicinal que se hace popularmente de esta planta, es en manchas de la piel. Unspecified plant parts - Biblioteca digital de la medicina tradicional mexicana.
    En Yucatán se utiliza como cicatrizante, además de emplearlo como antiséptico. Se utilizan las hojas hervidas y reposadas durante dos días, para lavar la parte afectada (V. herida). Leaves - Biblioteca digital de la medicina tradicional mexicana.
    Infections & Infestations
    Se usa como antitusígeno. Unspecified plant parts - Biblioteca digital de la medicina tradicional mexicana. Se usa contra el sarampión. Unspecified plant parts - Biblioteca digital de la medicina tradicional mexicana. Las hojas se usan como purgante y vermífugo Leaves - Uso actual y potencial de la vegetación de Mina, N.L, Un estudio biométrico de las fibras vegetales, su desarrollo, estructura y productividad.



    Found In:

    Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Baleares, Corse, Cyprus, East Aegean Is., France, Greece, Gulf States, India, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Lebanon-Syria, Libya, Morocco, Myanmar, Nepal, Niger, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Portugal, Sardegna, Sicilia, Spain, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkey-in-Europe, West Himalaya, Yugoslavia

    Introduced Into:

    Alabama, Arkansas, Ascension, Azores, Bangladesh, Belize, Bermuda, Brazil South, Cameroon, Cape Provinces, Chad, Chagos Archipelago, China North-Central, China South-Central, China Southeast, Cook Is., Costa Rica, El Salvador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gilbert Is., Guatemala, Gulf of Guinea Is., Hainan, Hawaii, Honduras, Japan, Jawa, Juan Fernández Is., Kenya, Kermadec Is., Korea, Lesser Sunda Is., Line Is., Madagascar, Madeira, Manchuria, Mexico Central, Mexico Northeast, Mexico Southeast, Mexico Southwest, New South Wales, New Zealand North, Nicaragua, Panamá, Senegal, Society Is., Trinidad-Tobago, Western Sahara, Zimbabwe

    Common Names


    Nerium oleander L. appears in other Kew resources:

    Date Identified Reference Herbarium Specimen Type Status
    Jan 1, 1983 Boissier, P.E. [s.n.], Spain K000857798
    Jan 1, 1983 Aucher-Eloy, P.M.R. [4925], Oman K000857799 isotype
    Jan 1, 1983 Kotschy, K.G.T. [558], Iran K000857633 isotype
    Jan 1, 1983 Jennings, R.H. [s.n.], Iran K000857634
    Jan 1, 1983 Kotschy, K.G.T. [558], Iran K000857635 isotype
    Jan 1, 1983 Haussknecht, H.C. [s.n.], Iran K000857636

    First published in Sp. Pl.: 209 (1753)

    Accepted in:

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