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Frequently (and not so frequently) Asked Questions

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BRIEF: Can you give me some information about Oleander?


QUESTION:
I live in Arizona and Oleanders are grown commonly for privacy.I heard many years ago that the leaves on them are deadly if eaten.I can't seem to locate any information about it. I have a friend who has two small children under two and planned to grow them in his yard but is concerned about this possible fact.Do you know if the leaves are poisonous or not.

ANSWER:

They are incredibly toxic. They contain a cardiac glycoside that can kill at small doses. Kids don't usually eat the leaves, but have been injured trying to suck the flowers or make tea from the leaves. When I was a kid near Sacramento, CA, we used to stop on the way to school to suck the nectar from honeysuckle vines that grew over the top of an oleander hedge. We knew which flowers were which, but it didn't stop passing motorists (on two occasions!) from locking up their brakes and dragging us out of there. Younger kids (we were 10 or so), probably wouldn't know the difference, and the result could be fatal. Such poisonings are rare, despite the fact that many ornamentals are toxic. Still, one can't be too careful and oleanders are more toxic than most...