Here are photos of two plants taken today (May 22, 2013) in Davis, California — oleander (Nerium oleander) and apricot-flowered poker plant (Kniphofia uvaria ‘Echo Mango’).
Oleander (Nerium oleander) has such beautiful flowers (from white to pink to dark magenta), but the plant is so over-used in California that people no longer bother to stop and look at it. It gets by with very little water.
The entire plant is extremely toxic, but that doesn’t stop it from being planted in home gardens and landscapes throughout California. The plant contains cardiac glycosides which can affect the action of heart muscles and disrupt normal heart rhythms (yes, it can be fatal). Initial symptoms are varied — dizziness, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and blurred vision. The sap of oleander is also reported to cause skin dermatitis. Enjoy its beauty, but beware its poisons.
Poker plant (Kniphofia uvaria ‘Echo Mango’) is native to South Africa, but well adapted to California’s Mediterranean climate. The ‘Echo Mango’ variety in my garden is a beautiful yellow in color, but other varieties can be coral or white. The flowers attract hummingbirds.
The photo here is of a very young plant — it will form a larger, dense clump with multiple flowers.