Oleander (Nerium oleander)

How Do We Use This Organism?

All parts of Nerium oleander are toxic to humans.  That means that whether one consumes the roots or the leaves there will be consequences.  There have not been many reported deaths due to this plant however a there was a 22-year-old female that had ingested the plant because she was told that it would help her conceive a child.  Her blood pressure was normal but she had a very irregular heartbeat at 46 bpm.  She was also vomiting constantly, which is most likely associated with the cardiac toxins in this plant.  Although this woman survived, somebody who is younger, such as a toddler, could be at very serious risk of death when consuming this plant.  For more on this case study click here.

Nerium oleander is appealing to look at, which is why it is often used as a decorative outside plant in yards or gardens.  This can increase the danger to children however, because the plant looks so appealing.  Many herbal products are made from this plant too, but because of the toxicity and the fact that most of them seem like a sham, I would not invest a single dollar into them.

Oleander growing next to a house thanks to AlphaCentauriOleander growing in parking lot thanks to Forest and Kim Starr

How Well Does Oleander Play With The Other Species?

There are several organisms that have been found to feed on Nerium oleander, however these predators are far and few between because Nerium oleander is a very chemically well-defended organism.  In order to consume Nerium oleander, an organism would have to develop a mechanism to counteract the toxins that are produced by it.  One of these organisms, the Oleander caterpillar (Syntomeida epilais), actually uses the toxins that it eats from the Oleander plant leaves as its own chemical defense against birds and other predators.  Other examples of predators that consume this plant are: the larva of the spotted oleander moth (Empyreuma affinis), the oleander hawkmoth (Daphnis nerii) and the common crow butterfly (Euploea core).  For more on the oleander caterpillar click here.
Oleander Hawk Moth Pupa thanks to Viran VazLarva of the Oleander Moth thanks to FlexOleander Hawk Moth thanks to Shantanu Kuveskar

Nerium oleander also has a parasite that likes to feed off of it…  you guessed it’s an aphid!  Aphis nerri will actually stick its proboscis into the vascular tissue of this plant and then feed off of a sugary substance called honeydew, leaving behind a disgusting looking mold from the leftovers.  For more on Aphis nerri click here

Aphids on an Oleander stem thanks to aroid Oleander Aphids chowing down thanks to Michael J. PlagensOleander Aphids going to work thanks to Alvesgaspar

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