x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Plant Library: yellow oleander

This widely used landscape plant has sweet, yellow flowers that blossom almost continuously. Just beware of its toxicity.

Thevetia peruviana, Captain Cook tree

In some parts of the world, Thevetia is considered a dangerous, invasive and toxic weed, while in others, including the UAE, it is widely used as a landscape plant. It is valued for its delicate, glossy foliage and sweetly perfumed, funnel-shaped flowers that appear almost continuously in shades of yellow and peach. In the UAE, Thevetia is used almost exclusively for hedging but it grows as a large tree elsewhere in the tropics.

All parts of the plant are toxic, but the seeds and the fleshy, green, angular fruits, which are about the size of an unshelled walnut, are the most dangerous if ingested. There are thousands of cases of accidental Thevetia poisoning each year throughout the tropics, particularly among children, and around 10 per cent of these poisonings are fatal.

Although it is a native of South America, Thevetia is known as the Captain Cook tree in the Pacific region because a specimen marked the spot where, in 1770, the British explorer moored his ship, the HMS Endeavour, in Far North Queensland, Australia.

Thevetia thrives in full sun and is tolerant of poor soils, salinity and drought. Propagation is by cuttings or seed.