Gardens in warm climates often have a beautiful Oleander plant, and for good reason. It is easy to grow, is evergreen and is available in a huge variety of colours. However, many are not aware that Oleander is toxic.
Don't panic, there have been very few reports of human death due to oleander toxicity, but unfortunately Oleander in the landscape is considered to be highly toxic whether the plant is cut, growing, dried or dead. People have been poisoned from cooking meat on an Oleander skewer and in an interview with "The New York Times," Dr. Larry J. Thompson, a clinical toxicologist in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, says "even a few leaves falling into a small ornamental pool could poison a dog who lapped water from the pool."
Animals such as dogs, cats, cows, horses, and even birds have succumbed to Oleander poisoning, ingestion of even a small amount can cause serious illness or death.
So, which parts of an Oleander plant are toxic?
The National Institute of Health reports that all parts of the Oleander plant are toxic and can cause severe illness or death, including the leaves, flowers, twigs, and stems. The plant is so poisonous that even drinking water from a vase holding a bloom can cause a severe reaction. The gummy sap can cause irritation when it comes in contact with the skin, and even smoke from burning the plant can cause severe adverse reactions.
Symptoms of Oleander poisoning include: blurred vision, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, low blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, weakness and lethargy, depression, headache, tremors, dizziness and disorientation, sleepiness, fainting and confusion.
Getting medical help quickly increases the chance of full recovery, so if you suspect a person has ingested Oleander call the Portugal emergency number 112. If you’re concerned about an animal or a pet, contact your veterinarian immediately.
To protect yourself against the plant's toxicity, take every precaution when pruning. Take the time to put on gloves, a long-sleeved shirt and long trousers before you begin. The sap can damage your eyes, so you should also wear protective eyewear.
Disposal of cuttings or Oleander plants
Unlike other garden clippings, Oleander parts should not go into the compost heap. Oleander clippings will contaminate your entire compost and render it unfit and even dangerous for use. Nothing removes the toxicity from the branches - not cold, rain, heat nor time.
Do not burn the clippings, as the smoke from them is also toxic. Instead, load the Oleander debris in strong plastic bags and contact your local Câmara to book a free collection, to dispose of the waste.