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Health Services > Queensland Poisons Information Centre

Plants and mushrooms


Wintersweet shrub close up of fruit of Wintersweet close up of flowers of Wintersweet close up of leaves and fruit of Wintersweet
Category 2 toxicity iconCategory 3 toxicity icon

 Common name   Wintersweet
 Botanical name   Acokanthera oblongifolia (also known as Acokanthera spectabilis, Carissa oblongifolia, Toxicophloea spectabilis)
 Other common names   Bushman’s poison
Family   Apocynaceae
 General description   A fragrant ornamental shrub that grows 2–3m tall.
Flowers   Flowers are fragrant, white and tubular, densely clustered in leaf axils and are 1.4–2cm long with five spreading star-shaped lobes
Leaves   The leaves are opposite, dark green, elliptic, 5–12.5cm long and 2.5–5cm wide, thick and leathery in texture.
 Fruit/Berries   Fruit are about 2–4cm long, succulent and reddish to purplish-black when ripe, similar in appearance to an olive.
Other   The sap is milky.
Symptoms   All parts of the plant are toxic. Ingestion may cause lethargy, restlessness and seizures. Related species in other parts of the world have been reported as causing deaths. Eating the fruit can cause severe gastro-intestinal irritation with abdominal pain, excessive salivation and vomiting. The toxicity of the fruit appears to be variable and the sap is an irritant to the skin and eyes.
Toxicity category   2, 3
Warning   Seek urgent medical assistance for all ingestions.

Last Updated: 24 August 2010
Last Reviewed: 31 October 2008