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These are the flowers of the Kyouchikutou or Nerium indicum also known commonly as the Oleander. I took this photo right around the corner in Yokohama from where I live.

The oleander is the Hiroshima’s Official City Flower as it was the first flower to blossom from the atomic bomb-scorched earth that had been supposed incapable of supporting plantlife for 75 years. As such it gave hope and strength to the city residents as they poured their utmost efforts into rebuilding the city. Native to SW Europe to East Asia. The whole plant is very poisonous. Skin contact with the plant can cause irritation whilst ingestion of only one leaf has led to death in children. Death has been known to follow the use of the wood of this plant as a meat skewer.

Linda Inoki wrote in Japan Times:

“Today, while Mother was watching me work, she suddenly remarked, ‘they say that people who like summer flowers die in the summer. I wonder if it’s true?’ I did not answer but went on watering the eggplants. It is already the beginning of summer. She continued softly, ‘I am very fond of hibiscus, but we haven’t a single one in this garden.’ ” ‘We have plenty of oleanders,’ I answered in an intentionally sharp tone. ‘I don’t like them. I like almost all summer flowers, but oleanders are too loud.’ ”

From “The Setting Sun” by Osamu Dazai, translated by Donald Keene (Charles E. Tuttle)

Oleander blooms have a delicate fragrance, rather like sweet almonds. The shrub’s leathery leaves are evergreen and the stalks are a handsome garnet red, but the milky juice is often poisonous — a fact reflected in the unusual name of this plant family, “dogbane.”

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