Thevetia peruviana

Today’s entry was written by Claire:

This photograph of Thevetia peruviana was taken by Qamar Mehdi (S.Q. Medhi@Flickr) of Lahore, Pakistan and provided via the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool. Thank you Qamar!

Apocynaceae includes over 4500 species, with the highest diversity in tropical and subtropical regions (though there are temperate representatives as well). Thevetia peruviana is among the subtropicals. Probably native to Mexico, it has naturalized in much of the neotropics. It is also widely cultivated throughout all tropical regions, where it tends to bloom year-round. This shrub’s flowers range from the lovely apricot colour seen in Qamar’s photograph to coral, yellow, white, and even tan.

A glance at the leaves might remind of oleander (Nerium oleander). In fact, it is sometimes called yellow oleander, and the species are close relatives. Both are evergreen shrubs and have five petals arranged in an attractive whorl. Also like oleander, Thevetia peruviana is extremely toxic in all parts of the plant, containing cardiac glycosides (toxins poisonous to most vertebrates). Several bird species are known to be resistant to the toxins, including the Asian koel, bulbul, myna, and the common grey hornbill. For those animals not resistant to the poisons, the toxic effects include unpleasant cardiac and gastrointestinal symptoms (that I shouldn’t list here) when ingested. To give an idea of its strength, though, the International Programme on Chemical Safety cites a report with respect to Thevetia peruviana stating: “The absorption of the equivalent of two Thevetia peruviana leaves may be sufficient to kill a 12.5 kg (28lb) child (Ellenhorn and Barceloux, 1988)”. Be wary if you use this species as an ornamental in your garden or indoor plant!

Thevetia peruviana

12 responses to “Thevetia peruviana”

  1. Eric in SF

    This was a common and beautiful landscaping plant on Maui. Nice to see it here on BPoTD.
    Here’s a yellow clone from Kula Botanical Garden:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/ericinsf/2994338160/

  2. Kathleen Garness

    Many poisonous (to humans) plants are often a part of traditional or contemporary medicine. I’m wondering if this one has been studied?

  3. Bonnie

    Absolutely beautiful flower!

  4. Melissa in South Carolina

    The flower itself is reminiscent of Angel’s Trumpets to me. Anyone else? As to it’s relation to oleander, Oleander is very much a South Carolina shrub, too, with lots of color variations when in bloom. Often used along roadways as “filler.”

  5. David Tarrant

    The Mexican native Thevetia thevetioides,has clear buttercup yellow flowers.
    It produces large seed capsules, which when dried and strung together make a delightful sound, these are commonly used as anklets and wristlets on the legs of many indigenous dancers here in Mexico.

  6. Eric Simpson

    Beautiful!
    My initial impression of the flower was that it was something in Malvaceae, though the leaves do remind me of Oleander. Hard to believe, but Oleander was a common garden plant in the area I grew up (and still live), put in by the developers in the 50s & 60s. Those houses were sold almost exclusively to families with young children. I’m amazed I never heard of anyone dying or even getting sick. I don’t know of any extant plants, though. I’ve always wondered if there were ever any problems as a result of cars crashing and burning in the Oleander planted in the median strip of many freeways in SoCal.

  7. elizabeth a airhart

    look but do not touch as we were sometimes told by our mothers
    do not put that in your mouth you will get sick
    i live florida and i did learn early on about oleanders
    there is a problem about school age people ingesting toxic plants
    the bloom reminds me of the alamandas that bloom so well here
    thank you one and all

  8. Tom Wheeler

    Reminds me of Ice cream. Mmm! Think I’ll stick to apricot, peach or mango ice cream.

  9. Carolina

    This plant is VERY common in Peru, it is used all over Lima (Peru’s capital) at least. I remember playing with the flowers (the most common are dark pink) as a kid… !

  10. Wendy Cutler

    There are also a lot of photos at http://www.sagebud.com/luckynut-thevetia-peruviana/, including a few showing the fruits.
    I’ve seen this for years on Kauai and always thought it was Oleander, though now I see that Oleander looks fairly different. Now I can recognize on one page on Oleander where one of the photos they’ve posted is really of this plant. I’m so pleased to learn about this, though I’m not very confident that I’ll remember the name.

  11. Carolina

    uh-oh, I think I have confused Thevethia with oleander…

  12. Alt

    Yuck, i hate this plant- it smells poisonous and is used for infanticide in some bad countries.

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