during a class last week at the Beautiful Silks Botanical Studio somebody asked the question
"what does oleander do?"
which reminded me that when i pootled across the ranges to Rockford in the Barossa Valley earlier in the month to pick up bottles of assorted nectars (with which to enhance the lunches at Mansfield) i drove past a group of young gentlemen assiduously stripping flowers from a huge Oleander (Nerium oleander). it occurred to me about a 100 metres later that they had bare hands.
so i did the grandmotherly thing, made a u-turn and went back.
poor things, they thought i'd come to give them a talking-to for stealing flowers. not so. but i DID give them a talking-to about health and safety.
they had no idea of the name of the plant, or that it was poisonous.
so i told them.
i also suggested they would want to wash their hands before consuming their next meal (or rubbing their eyes)
their plan was to scatter the flowers at a wedding...but if i were the bride i wouldn't want bushels of toxic plant matter tossed at me.
i'd also be concerned about small children picking up the flowers and putting them in their mouths. as small children so often do.
i tell my students time and time again "identify the plant, at very least by genus, before gathering". because it's just common sense.
somebody told me in the USA years ago how she and a friend had been hospitalized with anaphylaxis after lifting the lid on a pot full of boiling poison ivy. the genus name Toxicodendron tells me to stay well away from that one. i was so stunned by the story that
i completely forgot to ask "and what colour did it dye?"
so what DOES oleander do? i have no idea. and i don't plan to put it in a dyepot because even the smoke from burning oleander is poisonous.
while i'm on the subject
there have been a spate of images of "ecoprints" from castor oil plant leaves floating about the internet. call me old Mrs Unadventurous if you like, but i would be a bit nervous about bundling leaves from the plant whose derivative was used to kill Georgi Markov. admittedly using it in a dye bundle may not get the stuff into your bloodstream (which is where it is most effective) but there's very little research about the effects of inhaling steam from boiling such bundles.
once cloth is rinsed and dried it won't be a longterm poisoning device (unless you were to soak it in a poison before offering it for use, not a pleasant thought).
so given about 80% of ornamentals in suburban gardens are poisonous in one way or another, i recommend caution.
simple errors like confusing colchicums for crocus and hemlock for angelica have led to tears before bedtime in the past.
i'm not scare-mongering, i just think it's important to know what you're dealing with.
one of the reasons that green became the colour of bad luck in the theatre was that actors who regularly wore green costumes became sick and eventually died...if the colour green in the cloth was dependent on the presence of orpiment (arsenic trisulphide)
they may not have known why, just that you became ill if you wore green.
but that's another story.
ps thank you everybody who offered a word (or two) in response to the previous post...i'll be working with those words and shall hope to find them some friends soon