Sunday, November 9, 2014

Bones' Apothecary: Oleander

So we moved into this new house a couple months ago, and there are several gigantic oleander plants out back. They're big enough and thick enough to function as a very tall privacy hedge between my back yard and the rest of the world. They have very pink flowers.

Not having had oleanders to care for before, I looked them up.
Turns out they're completely poisonous, so obviously people consume them for medicinal purposes.

I gotta say, that seems less than smart to me.

(I recently had an idea for a story about what would happen if all the warning labels were removed from quasi-dangerous products. Of course, the people behind the removal would probably be some secret eugenicist society. I'm taking bets on how much of our population would be wiped out in short order.)

Anyway, I harvested as many of the dried flowers as I could reach and ended up with two full gallon-sized jars of the things. It looks like the plants are just beginning to grow seed pods (very bean-like in appearance), so I should have a harvest of those, soon, too. For now, I just have the dried flowers. They dry right on the stem, by the way, and if I catch them before they fall and get smooshed by running dogs and kid(s), they're quite pretty.

A picture I took of some of the blossoms still on the bush.

The dried and harvested flowers.

I've listed the dried flowers in my etsy shop, under the Apothecary section.
What else am I going to do with all these flowers?
I think they'd be useful for spellwork or potpourri or, I'm sure, any number of flower-crafty projects.

While researching oleander online, I came across one story in particular. This tale seemed to pop up all over the place, whether I was looking for the plant's mythology or taxonomy. The story goes, in Greek myth a hero named Leander was in love with a maiden (why is it always a maiden?) who was imprisoned (by her father, of course) on top of an island mountain. Every night, Leander would swim across the treacherous seas to visit the girl. One night, a storm more terrible than usual raged while Leander was swimming, and (because ancient Greeks loved tragedy), Leander drowned. The following morning, the distraught girl ran up and down the beach looking for her lover, crying "O, Leander!" over and over. When she found his body, she saw that he had been clutching a flower. She took this flower from his corpse as a symbol of his profound love for her. The flower is now known as Oleander (please tell me you saw that coming).

Okay, so maybe this really is a Greek myth, but that really seems unlikely to me. I mean, it seems unlikely that it's a Greek myth. I'd more easily believe that it's a Victorian England myth masquerading as a Greek myth.

Nevertheless, the oleander flower is thought (these days) to have some potency in spellwork dealing with matters of romantic love.

Personally, I've never tried such work, so I can't give any awesome anecdotes on that.

Some other names for Oleander: nerium oleander, Dogbane, Rose Bay, Desert Rose, Ceylon Tree, Adelfa.

Cunningham, in his Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, associates oleander with femininity, the planet Saturn, the element Earth, and with love.

None of my other herb books mention oleander. None!
Maybe that's because most of my herb books are about herbal medicine, and oleander is a poison.
Don't consume any part of the oleander plant, mm'kay? 

Want some more info? Here's some:

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