Ginje is scientifically named in Latin as Cascabela thevetia. Popularly in English, this plant is known as yellow oleander, Captain Cook tree, be still tree or Mexican oleander. Another name for this plant in Spanish is ayoyote or codo de fraile.
In Indonesia, this plant has several other popular names according to the regional language. Like rain in Sundanese-speaking areas and Nagasari in East Java.
Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature
The Apocynaceae family consists of about 400 genera and more than about 4,500 species of trees, shrubs, and vines. The genus Cascabela belongs to the subfamily Rauvolfioideae and contains 6 species ranging from Mexico to South America. This genus has a quite complicated taxonomic history with the assumption that the generic Thevetia and Cerbera are two different entities through phylogenetic analysis, taxonomic treatment, and databases.
Especially through recent evaluations based on differences in flower and fruit structure and seed shape which show that the two genera are sister taxa and should be treated separately (J Rojas-Sandoval, 2022). However, many systematic writings still consider Cascabela to be a synonym of Thevetia.
The Cascabela thevetia species or yellow oleander is known to originate from tropical America from Mexico to Peru. This plant species has been introduced and can be found naturalized in North America, the West Indies, Africa, South Asia, Australia, and on many islands in the Pacific and Indian Ocean.
Shape Description, Growth, and Invasive Properties
Yellow oleander can grow to a height of 2 to 8 meters. The trunk is wood that is grooved and segmented in a round shape with a grayish green color.
The main characteristic of this plant species is the shape of the flowers which resemble yellow trumpets which grow opposite the leaves at the ends of the branches. The shiny green leaves are lanceolate in shape with short stems and pointed tips.
The fruit is shiny green in color which will turn black when ripe and has a diameter of approximately 5 cm.
This plant is said to have drought-resistant properties. and will grow well in shady places and can provide full sunlight.
Yellow oleander is an invasive plant that has the potential to replace native vegetation. In Australia, it has been identified as one of the major weeds threatening the biodiversity of grasslands along river lines and flood plains. It has also been considered a serious weed that is displacing native species in East Timor and South Africa (J Rojas-Sandoval, 2022).
Benefits of Yellow Oleander for Health and Other Uses
Yellow oleander is generally planted as an ornamental plant that can help beautify garden decoration. However, it can also be planted as a hedge plant and for soil conservation purposes.
All parts of the plant have been used in various traditional medicines. The oil extracted from the seeds is believed to help treat skin diseases through external application and processing as soap. Meanwhile, the bark is antiperiodic which is believed to help reduce heat (J Rojas-Sandoval, 2022).
In the Central American region, the plants have been used traditionally to treat diseases such as ulcers, scabies, hemorrhoids and tumors. A study conducted by Ramos-Silva et al. (2017) showed that this species has potential as a natural anti-cancer product with important effects on the proliferation, motility, and adhesion of human breast and colorectar cancer cells as well as the induction of apoptosis in human prostate and lung cancer cell lines.
Even though it is often used as an ingredient in various traditional medicines, consuming this plant needs to be done carefully because some parts of the plant contain poison, especially if consumed. The roots and leaves consumed by the mouth can cause a burning sensation in the mouth, diarrhea, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, and irregular heartbeat (Find Trees & Learn | University of Arizona Campus Arboretum, 2014).