Photographed by Bette Jackson
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Hi, I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson, out with the wild things. Oleander is a common landscape shrub in Florida environments, and in many ways it's a good fit for managed urban landscapes. It's tolerant of salty soils and drought conditions, grows in full sun, loves sandy soils, remains green year-around, and produces an abundance of long-lasting colorful blooms. But before you plant oleander, be aware that it's not native and it has little value for native birds and wildlife. It might also become invasive in wetland areas, with seeds spread by the wind, crowding out native plants as it expands out of natural environments out of control. Oleander is now found around the world in warm coastal environments, but it is originally from the Mediterranean area. The greatest problem with oleander is that it's very poisonous. Taking a bite of an oleander leaf or of a hotdog cooked on an oleander stick can be lethal. This is not a plant for landscaping picnic areas or playgrounds. On the positive side, we've learned to use oleanders' toxins in rat poisons and insecticides and even in some medicines.
'With the Wild Things' is produced at the Whitaker Center in the College of Arts and Sciences at Florida Gulf Coast University. For 'The Wild Things', I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson.