Tulip Bulb Toxicity

Overview

The tulip (Tulipa) bulb and all parts of the plant contain toxic glycosides known as tulipalin A and B. The highest concentration of the toxin is found in the bulbs. One tulip bulb can kill an adult human, according to the San Diego Turtle & Tortoise Society. A perennial, the tulip is often planted in the fall so it can endure a period of cold stratification before producing springtime blossoms.

History

During World War II there was an extreme shortage of food and crops in Europe. Starvation forced many humans and livestock to seek out food from uncommon sources. Humans and animals turned to tulip bulbs in Holland to consume. The bulbs caused sickness and even death in some who ate them in desperation, according to Nova Scotia Museum.

Symptoms

When humans consume tulip bulbs they often experience dizziness, vomiting, diarrhea, extreme abdominal pain and excessive salivation. Convulsions and coma may occur with death following. Dogs, cats and livestock also exhibit similar symptoms when ingesting tulip bulbs or foliage.The tulip has a low level of toxicity unless an entire bulb is consumed. The bulb has an unpleasant taste, which makes the likelihood of consuming an entire bulb low. Ingesting a small amount usually causes an upset stomach.

Tulip Bulb Dermatitis

Tulip bulb dermatitis occurs when a gardener handles tulip bulbs while not wearing gloves. Severe skin blistering can occur to sensitive individuals. The sufferer often experiences extreme itching, hives and swelling. Handling the bulbs can cause fingernails to become brittle and begin to break, according to the British Columbia Drug and Poison Information Centre.

Treatment

Wash your hands with soap and water after handling tulip bulbs. If the bulb has been consumed do not induce vomiting, which may cause burning and blistering of the throat or esophagus. Rinse out the sufferer's mouth with water. The sufferer should drink a glass of milk. If vomiting should begin, try to keep fluids down the sufferer so dehydration does not occur. Seek medical help immediately.

Avoidance

Avoid accidental poisoning by planting tulip bulbs in safe locations. They should never be planted near small children or animals. Never plant tulips near horses or livestock because they may consume the plants' blossoms or foliage, which also contain toxins.

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About this Author

Kimberly Sharpe is a freelance writer with a diverse background. She has worked as a Web writer for the past four years. She writes extensively for Associated Content where she is both a featured home improvement contributor (with special emphasis on gardening) and a parenting contributor. She also writes for Helium. She has worked professionally in the animal care and gardening fields.