Although native to a region stretching from the Mediterranean to southeast Asia, oleander (Nerium oleander, Apocynaceae) has been introduced throughout the tropics and subtropics over the last few centuries. My wife and I came across this beautiful flowering shrub in Bermuda this May.
Growing to nearly 20 feet (6 m) in height, this evergreen features whorls of thick, leathery leaves that are long and narrow with pointed tips. At the ends of the branches are clusters of attractive five-parted flowers that can appear in a variety of colors. Pink may be most common, but red, white, salmon, and yellow varieties also exist.
Although beautiful, oleander produces cardiac glycosides that are considered toxic. Larger mammals are particularly sensitive to these compounds and can be poisoned if they consume enough plant material. Effects include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, irregular heartbeat, seizures, and even coma and death. Touching the sap can also produce contact dermatitis, and smoke from burning plants can cause lung irritation.