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Saturday, January 12, 2013

Oleanders Not the Health Concern That Many People Think

Petite oleander growing in rock mulch. They do nicely in rock mulch.

Q. Saw your article in the Southwest View. My association has several petite oleanders. I like them and they are very pretty and hardy and never have to replace them. Some people with allergies and pets think they are very poisonous and bad for their allergies. Just how bad are they and will they kill pets????
A. I personally love oleanders. Yes, they are poisonous along with hundreds of other plants in our landscapes. If we tried to outlaw all the plants that are poisonous we would not have much left to use for landscaping. As far as animals eating the oleander leaves, I think this is a bit stretched. There are some reports in California of suspected animal poisonings from oleanders and it is probably not a good idea to have them close to livestock that eat landscape plants like any other poisionous plants.

Closeup of salmon colored flowers of this petite oleander.
Oleanders have been unfairly treated in my opinion. They do not cause heart problems due to their pollen as has been reported in anecdotes. I remember back in the 1980's there was a cardiologist in the Las Vegas area who tried to have them banned claiming that they caused heart problems. But this was an overzealous physician who based his opinions on his opinions, no facts were involved. I remember that we (the University) challenged his position with hard science and his proposal was turned down by the government officials that were approached about their possible ban. If this opinion is flairing up again then it needs to be challenged with research documentation that this has been proven in peer-reviewed research published in scientific journals. I doubt anything has changed.

Oleander pollen is heavy and sticky and not carried by wind any considerable distance at all compared to plants like olive, pine, mulberry and many, many others which we know do cause allergy problems. Poisonous, yes. Contribute to health problems? No. Prove it differently.

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