White Oleander

A Beautiful (but deadly) Shrub that is Tough-as-Nails!

White Oleander

Summer Vacation: OBX  The fam and I just got back from our vacation in the Outer Banks (OBX) of North Carolina.  I’ve been going to the OBX since I was a young girl and it has been my family’s favorite vacation destination for many years.  If you aren’t familiar with the beachy paradise…here’s a quick rundown….

The Outer Banks of NC are a series of long, narrow strips of islands that act as “barriers” for the inland shores.  The Atlantic Ocean is situated on one side of the islands with various watery “sounds” on the other side.  Some areas of these banks are so narrow you can see the ocean and the sound at the same time!  OBX is home to Kitty Hawk, NC where the Wright Brothers first took flight and the East Coast’s largest natural sand dunes are located in Nags Head, NC.  Corolla, NC has secluded areas where wild horses run free, Roanoke Island is the spot where European settlers known as “The Lost Colony” disappeared over 400 years ago and Ocracoke, NC is the old stomping grounds of the infamouse pirate, Blackbeard! Arg!

Unlike many commercialized beach resort areas, the Outer Banks is still very much a place of natural beauty and wild life.  The beaches are lined with beach homes…only a very few hotels exist there.  No resorts, no malls, no theme parks, no board walk….in fact…not many places are open after 9:00pm!  The clean and very safe beaches and sounds are the main attraction…and of course…all the great water sports like surfing, paddle boarding, para-sailing, sports fishing and sailing.  The mountainous sand dunes are a popular spot for flying kites and taking hang-gliding lessons…and on the 4th of July…the dunes are the BEST place to watch the impressive fireworks displays over the Atlantic Ocean and Roanoke Sound.


Pale Pink Oleander Bush

Plants of OBX: All the wind, sandy soil and salt air in the OBX are great for beach goers but make a forbidding environment for plant life.  Scrubby Pine trees and dense brush abound along with beachy grasses and knarled, Live Oak trees.  Flowers mostly consist of annuals such as marigolds, petunias and lantana.  Cana flowers are popular tropicals and provide an exotic touch to the beach house landscape and pool areas.

Tough as Nails: However, one flowering bush that is impervious to the salt air, sandy soil, windy conditions and frequent drought in the Outer Banks is the Nerium Oleander.  This beautiful shrub plant is widely used in landscaping both beach cottages and commercial properties and is frequently seen growing along the sides of the road.  Oleander flowers are somewhat tropical looking, grow in clusters and come in shades of white, pink, purple and red.  Oleander provides vibrant “pops” of color and floral beauty all summer long and gives the dry sandy landscape a more lush look and feel.

Dark Pink Oleander Flowers

Beautiful but Deadly: The leaves of the Oleander bush are toxic to humans and animals and can cause death if ingested in larger amounts.  The flower nectar is also toxic and humans can get sick if they eat honey made by bees using the Oleander flower’s nectar.  Despite the risk, people enjoy using Oleader in their landscapes because it is so hardy and thrives well in the Outer Banks area.  Oleander is also deer proof…which is a good thing since deer roam freely all through the area.  In fact, we had 4 large bucks come hopping through the property of the beach cottage we were staying at.  What an exciting sight!

It was incredibly hot during our trip to the Outer Banks…upper 90′s and low 100′s for temps…everything was wilting in the heat…except for the Oleander!  If you live in a hot, humid, windy and or sandy location and have a hard time finding plants that will tolerate poor environmental conditions (or if you are just a poor gardener, LOL!)…I recommend that you give the super hardy, Nerium Oleander a try!   It’s a glutton for punishment and can take whatever Mother Nature…or you…dish out!