Nerium oleander L.

First published in Sp. Pl.: 209 (1753)
This species is accepted
The native range of this species is Medit. to Myanmar. It is a shrub or tree and grows primarily in the subtropical biome. It is used as a poison and a medicine, has environmental uses and for food.


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.

Uses Ornamental

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 oleander is 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.


IUCN Red List of Threatened Species

LC - least concern

Extinction risk predictions for the world's flowering plants to support their conservation (2024). Bachman, S.P., Brown, M.J.M., Leão, T.C.C., Lughadha, E.N., Walker, B.E.

Predicted extinction risk: not threatened. Confidence: confident

Bernal, R., G. Galeano, A. Rodríguez, H. Sarmiento y M. Gutiérrez. 2017. Nombres Comunes de las Plantas de Colombia.

adelfa, adelfo, alejandría, amaranto, andelfo, azucena de La Habana, azuceno, azuceno de La Habana, berbería, clavel habano, delfo, ébano, flor de La Habana, habana, habano, laurel, laurel de Judea, laurel rosa, rosa de La Habana, yolanda, yucatán

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

Morphology General Habit
A shrub or small tree.
Morphology Leaves
Leaves opposite or ternate, thick and poisonous.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers
Attractive, fragrant flowers that are white, crimson or pink.

M. Thulin et al. Flora of Somalia, Vol. 1-4 [updated 2008]

Oleander rose-bay (English).
Morphology Leaves
Leaves linear-lanceolate, 6–15 x 1.2–3 cm, acute at the apex
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Calyx
Calyx-lobes 4–8 mm long
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Corolla
Corolla pink or sometimes white or red; tube 12–20 mm long; lobes 20–25 mm long, obtuse
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Follicles 8–16 x 0.5–1 cm, erect, reddish-brown.
Cultivated, for example in N1 and S2.

Bernal, R., Gradstein, S.R. & Celis, M. (eds.). 2015. Catálogo de plantas y líquenes de Colombia. Instituto de Ciencias Naturales, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá.

Cultivada en Colombia; Alt. 0 - 1760 m.; Andes, Islas Caribeñas, Llanura del Caribe, Valle del Cauca, Valle del Magdalena.
Morphology General Habit
Subarbusto, arbusto

Biogeografic region: Andean, Caribbean. Elevation range: 0–1760 m a.s.l. Cultivated in Colombia. Colombian departments: Antioquia, Atlántico, Bogotá DC, Cauca, Cundinamarca, Magdalena, Quindío, San Andrés y Providencia, Valle del Cauca.
Shrub, Subshrub.
IUCN Red List Assessment (2021): LC.
Habitat according IUCN Habitats Classification: forest and woodland, savanna, shrubland, native grassland, artificial - terrestrial.


Cultivated as an ornamental The plant contains very toxic cardiac glycosides.

Use Environmental
Environmental uses.
Use Food
Used for food.
Use Materials
Used as material.
Use Medicines
Medical uses.
Use Poisons

Common Names



  • Angiosperm Extinction Risk Predictions v1

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