Oleander: A Fascinating Tale of Beauty, Poison, and Legend in the Mediterranean – Nature and Life

It is an evergreen shrub (or small tree) that grows to approximately 6 m. A sticky latex is exuded if the stem is cut. Leaves are usually in groups of three and narrowly lanceolate. The flowers are tubular with five lobes, red or pink in the wild, but in addition may be white, cream, yellow or purple in cultivars, and double forms have also been selected. Some are scented. I think is quite interesting how opening of this flower formed Star of David :). 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. It is a highly toxic plant that has been cultivated as an decorative plant since ancient times. There is an interesting fact: Alexander the Great in his military campaigns is said to have lost men as a result of eating meat skewered on the highly poisonous Nerium twigs. Another interesting story comes from the locals here: the local dish that is typical in Istria is manestra and there is a legend that if the husband was infidel, the wife would cook for him la manestra with oleandar leafs, actually I have never heard that anybody was poisoned by Oleandar but the legend always intrigues.

Habitat:

Native to the Mediterranean region, Iran, the Indian subcontinent and southern China. This one is growing in my garden, was planted approximately 50 years ago by my grandparents and 20 years ago it reached the size od 2 m. But when we wanted to redecorated our garden we tried to dig it out but obviously some roots have remained and now we have same size, over 2 m big plant again 😉