Nerium Oleander Facts: Nerium oleander is an evergreen shrub or small tree in the dogbane family and is the only species currently classified in the genus Nerium. It is most commonly known as oleander, from its superficial resemblance to the unrelated olive Olea. It is so widely cultivated that no precise region of origin has been identified, though southwest Asia has been suggested.
Nerium oleander grows to 6.6–19.7 feet tall, with erect stems that splay outward as they mature. In the first-year nerium stems bloom. The nerium mature stems have a grayish bark. The leaves of the nerium oleander shrubs are in pairs or whorls of three, thick and leathery, dark-green, and narrow, 2.0–8.3 inches long and 0.39–1.38 inches wide. The nerium oleander flowers grow in clusters at the end of each branch. The nerium blooms are white, or pink to red. They are often, but not always, sweet-scented. The fruit is a long narrow capsule 5–23 cm (2.0–9.1 in) long, which splits open at maturity to release numerous downy seeds.
Nerium oleander is either native or naturalized to areas from Mauritania, Morocco, and Portugal eastward through the Mediterranean region and the Sahara, to the Arabian peninsula, southern Asia, and as far East as Yunnan in southern parts of China. The nerium shrub typically grows around dry stream beds.
Nerium oleander is planted in many subtropical and tropical areas of the world. On the East Coast of the US, it can be planted as far north as Virginia Beach, Virginia, while in California and Texas it is naturalized as a median strip planting. The nerium oleander can be seen planted all along Highway 99 in California down the median strip.