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Thevetia peruviana, yellow oleander
Though known as the 'suicide tree', its 'success' rate, at under 10%, makes it an unreliable choice.
Read more about Thevetia peruviana, yellow oleander in these blog entries;
Cattle in Bermuda die after eating oleander leaves
Meaning of the Name
Named after the French monk, André Thevet (1502-1592) who is credited with 'discovering' the plant during his travels in South America.
Common Names and Synonyms
yellow oleander, lucky nut, suicide tree, be-still nuts
How Poisonous, How Harmful?
Contains thevetin, a cardiac glycoside, said to have a digitalis type action on the heart.
Image by J.M.Garg Creative Commons licence
In a paper on treatment of Thevetia peruviana poisoning, M. Eddleston et al describe 351 cases in Sri Lanka, in a three year period, but say that there are 'thousands' of cases each year, the majority being deliberate ingestion by young women. Of the cases described in the paper only two died suggesting Thevetia is not the perfect suicide weapon it is sometimes said to be.
In general, it is said that under 10% of cases of ingestion will prove fatal.
One fatal incident was reported from Cyprus where a tourist, visiting from south-east Asia, was seen to pick and eat parts of the plant in a park, apparently in order to commit suicide.
Folklore and Facts
Thevetia is said to originate in south America and be an introduced plant in Asia where it now appears to do most harm.
Like many poison plants, its extremely bitter taste is a disincentive to accidental ingestion and it has a strongly emetic effect which further limits the harm it does.