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by Sherry
(Nevada City CA USA)


Encountered in a friend’s garden on 6/4/2011. No one knows what this plant is. Might cause skin irritation.

Drought Smart Plants reply:

When you say might cause skin irritation, how do you know this? Did this happen to someone?

I’m not 100% sure, but this appears to be a type of Nerium oleander, which does have a milky sap, although I’ve never heard of it being an allergen to skin. It is however, deadly poisonous! You would have seen the milky white sap ooze from the cut parts when you took this cutting.

People (especially children and even pets) on occasion have died from ingesting parts of the plant, and even using it for a hot dog roasting stick can have deadly consequences. Please find out for sure if this is what you have. Even though it’s completely lovely in bloom and out, and very drought tolerant, it may not be worth it to keep it around. If this plant is the oleander and your friend has little children, she might want to take it out.

Many poisonous succulent plants are commonly grown in our gardens as they were introduced to the landscaping world in a time when this was not considered important.

I would encourage your friend to watch it closely, and take some pictures of it if it blooms to be sure. If it is Nerium oleander, the flowers will be beautiful white or pink trumpet shaped blooms.

Best of luck,

Comments for unknown plant that might cause skin irritation

Jun 07, 2011

Nursery says Euphorbia
by: Anonymous

My local nursery (Wiess Brothers, in Grass Vally) says it is some variety of Euphorbia. From google, maybe the images of euphorbia glauca look pretty close.

But e. glauca is from New Zealand. Also, it seems to sometime have red pigmentation in the stem, which I haven’t seen in my unknown plant.

I’ll keep looking.


Jun 06, 2011

Its not donkey spurge or nerium oleander
by: Anonymous

I googled both these plants and its not them. It is not a shrub like the oleander and the donkey spurge seems to have more curve in the leaves and is too densely bushy.

Thanks very much for the suggestions so far.


Jun 06, 2011

More information
by: Anonymous

Its been since High School that I’ve had to describe a plant, sorry for the meager details.

This is a low growing plant, less than 8 inches from the ground and not too large, even though it is mature. There are currently no flowers.

It does have milky white sap; copious amount when the plant was broken when my daughter showed me plant and I took the sample in the picture.

My daughter broke out in a rash on her face for unknown reason but later mentioned playing with milky sap. The homeowner mentioned that a particular plant in her yard will a cause “nasty” rash, but didn’t know what the plant is. They seem to be talking about the same plant.

I’ll try to get a definitive id at a local nusery, since if it is an oleader, the homeowner should know of the possible danger.

Jun 06, 2011

Different shaped leaves
by: Jacki

Hi Amy,
I thought of Euphorbia myrsinites, but the shape of the leaves is different, and the spacing of the leaves on the stem, so didn’t suggest that as an option. The milky sap part is similar in both the donkey spurge, and the Nerium oleander, although Sherry didn’t say in her original post if this had milky sap. Hopefully, it will turn out to be an innocuous garden shrub!

Jun 06, 2011

donkey spurge!
by: Amy @ A Nest for All Seasons

I’m almost positive it is donkey spurge, and it does leak a white sap that is an irritant to skin. I have it in my garden, thanks to a previous homeowner. It looks nice, and behaves here in PA, but is known to be invasive in the southwest and elsewhere. Full name is Euphorbia myrsinites.