Adenium obesum

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Desert rose
"Adenium obesum" Also known by the names "Sabi Star, Kudu, Mock Azalea, Impala Lily & Desert-rose.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Gentianales
Family: Apocynaceae
Genus: Adenium
A. obesum
Binomial name
Adenium obesum

See text


Adenium coetaneum Stapf
Adenium honghel A.DC.
Nerium obesum Forssk.

Adenium obesum is a poisonous species of flowering plant belonging to tribe Nerieae of subfamily Apocynoideae of the dogbane family, Apocynaceae, that is native to the Sahel regions, south of the Sahara (from Mauritania and Senegal to Sudan), and tropical and subtropical eastern and southern Africa and Arabia. Common names include Sabi star, kudu, mock azalea, impala lily and desert rose.


It is an evergreen or drought-deciduous succulent shrub (which can also lose its leaves during cold spells, or according to the subspecies or cultivar). It can grow to 1–3 m (3.3–9.8 ft) in height, with pachycaul stems and a stout, swollen basal caudex. The leaves are spirally arranged, clustered toward the tips of the shoots, simple entire, leathery in texture, 5–15 cm (2.0–5.9 in) long and 1–8 cm (0.39–3.15 in) broad. The flowers are tubular, 2–5 cm (0.79–1.97 in) long, with the outer portion 4–6 cm (1.6–2.4 in) diameter with five petals, resembling those of other related genera such as Plumeria and Nerium. The flowers tend to red and pink, often with a whitish blush outward of the throat.

Flowers and leaves
Paired, follicular fruits on cultivated specimen, Bengal
Single, dehiscent fruit showing seeds equipped with double pappus (tuft of hairs at both ends)
Seeds, each stripped of the double pappus which allows wind-dispersal


Some taxonomies consider some other species in the genus to be subspecies of Adenium obesum.


  • Adenium obesum subsp. oleifolium (South Africa, Botswana)
  • Adenium obesum subsp. socotranum (Socotra)
  • Adenium obesum subsp. somalense (Eastern Africa)
  • Adenium obesum subsp. swazicum (Swaziland, South Africa)

Adenium swazicum is an African species native Swaziland and Mozambique.


Caterpillars of the polka-dot wasp moth (Syntomeida epilais) are known to feed on the desert rose, along with feeding on oleanders.[2]


Adenium obesum produces a sap in its roots and stems that contains cardiac glycosides. This sap is used as arrow poison for hunting large game throughout much of Africa[3] and as a fish toxin.[4]


Adenium obesum is a popular houseplant and bonsai[5] in temperate regions. It requires a sunny location and a minimum indoor temperature in winter of 10 °C (50 °F). It thrives on a xeric watering regime as required by cacti. A. obesum is typically propagated by seed or stem cuttings. The numerous hybrids are propagated mainly by grafting on to seedling rootstock. While plants grown from seed are more likely to have the swollen caudex at a young age, with time many cutting-grown plants cannot be distinguished from seedlings. Like many plants, Adenium obesum can also be propagated in vitro using plant tissue culture.[6]

This plant has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.[7]

Symbolic and cultural references[edit]

The species has been depicted on postage stamps issued by various countries.[8]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ "Adenium obesum". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 2010-09-30.
  2. ^ "Oleander caterpillar (Syntomeida epilais)" (PDF). UF/IFAS. August 2006. Retrieved 26 March 2018.
  3. ^ Schmelzer, G.H.; A. Gurib-Fakim (2008). Medicinal Plants. Plant Resources of Tropical Africa. pp. 46–49. ISBN 978-90-5782-204-9.
  4. ^ John 'Lofty' Wiseman SAS Survival Handbook, Revised Edition p. 240; William Morrow Paperbacks (2009) ISBN 978-1875900060
  5. ^ D'Cruz, Mark. "Ma-Ke Bonsai Care Guide for Adenium obesum". Ma-Ke Bonsai. Retrieved 2011-05-11.
  6. ^ Kanchanapoom, Kantamaht; Sunheem, Sunisa; Kanchanapoom, Kamnoon (5 December 2010). "In vitro Propagation of Adenium obesum (Forssk.) Roem. and Schult". Notulae Botanicae Horti Agrobotanici Cluj-Napoca. 38 (3): 209–213. doi:10.15835/nbha3834604 (inactive 31 May 2021). ISSN 1842-4309. Retrieved 26 January 2016.CS1 maint: DOI inactive as of May 2021 (link)
  7. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Adenium obesum". Retrieved 23 February 2020.
  8. ^ "Adenium obesum". StampData. Retrieved 24 March 2020.

External links[edit]