Learn which plants thrive in your Hardiness Zone with our new interactive map!

Tulip Bulb Toxicity

By Kimberly Sharpe ; Updated September 21, 2017
All parts of the tulip plant contains toxins but the highest concentration is located in the bulb.
tulips image by Tomasz Plawski from Fotolia.com

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


About the Author


Based in Oregon, Kimberly Sharpe has been a writer since 2006. She writes for numerous online publications. Her writing has a strong focus on home improvement, gardening, parenting, pets and travel. She has traveled extensively to such places as India and Sri Lanka to widen and enhance her writing and knowledge base.