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Apocynaceae
Plants of the Dogbane Family

      The herbs, shrubs, and trees of the Dogbane family have opposite leaves (rarely alternate) and a milky, latex sap. Most are poisonous to some degree. The flowers are bisexual and regular, with 5 united sepals, 5 united petals, and 5 stamens. Stamens attach at the base of the petals, alternate with the lobes. The ovary is positioned wholly or mostly superior. It consists of 2 carpels, usually separate in North American genera, united only at the styles. Each carpel matures as a separate follicle, a dry, pod-like fruit with a seam down one side. There are many seeds, often with a tuft of hair attached at one end. Some genera produce berries or capsules.

      The traditional family included about 200 genera and 2,000 species, including 11 genera in North America, mostly in Florida. Periwinkle (Vinca) is often used in landscaping. The oleander (Nerium oleander) is grown as an ornamental (and toxic) shrub in warmer parts of our country. Oleander contains cardiac glycosides. Children have died after roasting hot dogs on the sticks. Taxonomists have reclassified the former Milkweed family as a subfamily of the Dogbanes, greatly expanding the size of the family.

Key Words: Plants with opposite leaves and milky juice. Tubular flowers with parts in fives.

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Apocynum cannabinum. Dogbane. Common along low elevation rivers.

Apocynum cannabinum. Dogbane.

Apocynum androsaemifolium. Spreading Dogbane.

Apocynum androsaemifolium. Spreading Dogbane.
Common in the mountains.

Nerium oleander. Oleander. An ornamental shrub cultivated in warmer climates. The vegetation is toxic. Photographed at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Nevada.

Vinca major. Bigleaf Periwinkle. Photographed in California.

There are more
Dogbane Family pictures
at PlantSystematics.org.

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