Experts have warned the public to stay away from a poisonous common street tree after Chinese bloggers revealed they had become sick after posing for selfies holding its flower.
It has become a trend on mainland Chinese social media for women to post photos of themselves holding flowers.
This craze was fuelled by a recent flood of posts on social media offering tips to beauty bloggers on how to pose while holding flowers, such as putting a flower next to their face, covering their mouth with it, hanging a flower from their ear, or even holding it in their mouth.
A woman in Zhengzhou in central Henan province was diagnosed with poisoning by her doctor a day after she took a selfie with an oleander flower, according to a Henan TV report on June 14.
Medical experts warn that leaves, flowers, twigs and stem from the oleander plant are toxic and can cause severe illness or death.
The plant, dubbed by some the “charming danger”, is so poisonous that even holding a bloom can cause a severe reaction.
Sun Yan, an employee at Zhengzhou Botanical Garden, said the oleander’s poison can damage the digestive and cardiovascular systems: “The Oleander will excrete milk-like liquid and people should not touch this liquid,” Sun was quoted as saying.
“The toxicosis will lead to gastrointestinal tract symptoms, like feeling nausea, vomiting, electrolyte disorder and muscle weakness,” said Dr Wang Hongyu from the emergency department of Zhengzhou People’s Hospital.
“The possibility of death can not be excluded, although it is low,” he added.
On China’s fashion and shopping social media platform, Xiaohongshu, a number of women shared their experience of being poisoned after putting oleander flowers in their mouths when taking photos.
“I began to feel strange and dizzy while taking the photos. I thought it was because I was weak,” wrote one woman on Xiaohongshu. “Luckily I spat the flower out quickly because of the taste. This might have saved my life.”
Oleander is planted widely in mainland cities and parks. It is described as an “environmental guard” or “green vacuum cleaner” as it is good at warding off wind and sands and the absorption of auto fumes, reported mainland news site, jschina.
The oleander scare has been a hit topic online in recent days, with its post being viewed 290 million times on Weibo. More than 20,000 users have joined discussions.
“The lesson we should learn from this case is not only that oleander is toxic or that we should not touch it. We should also understand that ornamental plants are for looking at, not touching or putting them in our mouths,” Wuhan Evening News commented on Weibo. “This not only protects the flowers, but also protects ourselves.”