Know your alien invasive plant: Oleander

An Oleander plant or Nerium oleander (Apocynaceae).

THIS week, Hillcrest Conservancy takes a look at the Oleander, as part of its series of articles on alien invasive plants, to help the community to identify and eradicate them from their gardens.

The Oleander’s scientific name is Nerium oleander (Apocynaceae) but it is also known as Ceylon rose, dog-bane, double oleander, rose bay, rose laurel, South Sea rose or Selonsroos (Afrikaans).

Description: It is an evergreen shrub or small tree growing up to 6m high with dark, dull-green leaves that are paler below and have distinctive veins and a prominent midrib. Pink, red or white flowers which are slightly aromatic, with a single row of petals, appear from September to March. It bears reddish-brown fruit follicles which are finger-like and 10-20cm long. They are ridged and split longitudinally into two halves with seeds that have tufts of hairs.

Where does this species come from? This species was introduced from the Mediterranean as a decorative hedge.

What is its invasive status in South Africa? A Category 1b that must be removed from your property. All State departments will also be required to address the removal from their land.

Where in South Africa is it a problem? Eastern and Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga.

How does it spread? Seed dispersal.

Why is it a problem? The whole plant is highly toxic and lethal and the sap is a skin irritant. This plant used to be the species that was planted throughout KZN between the two lanes on highways. Planted by many municipalities as hedges and on road verges where it will now have to be removed. This species competes with indigenous flora. All parts of the plant are highly toxic and lethal to humans, birds and other animals.

Does the plant have any uses? Ornamental and screening.

Contact Ian Pattrick on 079 909 5458 or Hillcrest Conservancy chairman, George Victor, on 073 901 3902 or e-mail [email protected]

Ian Pattrick, Hillcrest Conservancy

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