So, if you’ve read the title correctly you are now reading the last edition to the poisons collection. This has been a fantastic series to write for 2015 but now it is time to move on to new things coming in 2016.
To finish the poisons collection I present a fearsome plant that is in some places known as the most deadly!
The Oleander plant is another rather beautiful shrub plant. In fact it is often used as an ornamental plant. It comes from the Mediterranean and is found mostly in seasonally dry rocky watercourses, in full sun. The scientific name is Nerium oleander (Kew, 2015).
All parts of the plant are highly toxic to the point that even contact with the sap could cause dermatitis (Kew, 2015). The plant contains cardiac glycosides, these when ingested have an effect on the heart. It causes the heart to have a rapid pulse and then to malfunction and this can cause death. Other effect are abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhoea. The principal glycoside is called oleanderin. The effects are also fairly quick to work (Robertson, 2014).
There are a large number of cases of animals dying from ingesting the Oleander plant. Here is a quote from the poisons collection on an incident of Oleander poisoning:
“During the Peninsular Wars some of Wellington’s soldiers are alleged to have died after eating meat cooked on skewers made from the wood. This same claim is made about other groups of soldiers during other wars so is impossible to verify. This alleged ability of oleander skewers continues to be ascribed to various groups, often boy scouts out camping, to this day.”
However the above has been contested as to whether there would be enough of the chemical oleandrin in a skewer and Oleander does not have woody stems that would be strong enough to use as skewers (Robertson, 2014).
On the bright side its toxic nature has lent itself to pest control with examples of its sap being used as rat poison. It’s also been used in traditional medicine and in the remedy of snake bites (Kew, 2015). There is another silver lining in that medical treatment of oleander poisoning is fairly good although a hospital stay is needed. I think it may be best to take a look and dont touch approach with these ones!
Thanks for reading!
Kew. (2015). Nerium oleander. Available: http://www.kew.org/science-conservation/plants-fungi/nerium-oleander-oleander. Last accessed 11/12/2015.
Robertson, J. (2015). Nerium oleander. Available: http://www.thepoisongarden.co.uk/atoz/nerium_oleander.htm. Last accessed 11/12/2015.