Delphiniums are a popular garden plant known for their showy, vibrant blooms. These tall and slender plants come in a range of colours and are often used in borders, cottage gardens, and cut flower arrangements. However, as with many garden plants, the question of their toxicity arises. In this article, we will explore whether delphiniums are poisonous, their potential toxicity in humans and animals, and what precautions should be taken when handling these plants.

Are Delphiniums Poisonous
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What Are Delphiniums?

Delphiniums belong to the Ranunculaceae family, which also includes buttercups, columbines, and monkshood. These perennials are native to the Northern Hemisphere and are often grown for their tall, spiky flower spikes, which can grow up to 6 feet tall. They come in a variety of colours, including blue, purple, pink, white, and yellow. Delphiniums are often used in cottage gardens and borders and are also popular as cut flowers.

Delphinium Toxicity

Delphinium Toxicity Symptoms

While delphiniums are beautiful plants, they do contain toxic compounds that can be harmful if ingested. The most common symptoms of delphinium poisoning in humans and animals include gastrointestinal upset, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea.

In severe cases, delphinium poisoning can lead to cardiac or respiratory failure, seizures, and even death.

Toxic Compounds in Delphiniums

The toxic compounds in delphiniums are primarily alkaloids, specifically delphinine and ajacine. These alkaloids affect the nervous system and can cause a range of symptoms depending on the amount ingested.

All parts of the delphinium plant contain toxic compounds, but the highest concentrations are found in the seeds and roots. The flowers and leaves of the plant also contain toxic compounds but in lower concentrations.

Delphinium Poisoning in Humans

While cases of delphinium poisoning in humans are rare, they can be serious and even fatal. In one reported case, a 70-year-old woman in California died after ingesting delphiniums that she had mistaken for wild mustard. The woman had gathered the plants from a field and used them to make a salad. Within hours of eating the salad, she developed nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea, and was later found unconscious by her daughter. The woman was taken to the hospital, but despite treatment, she died from respiratory failure and cardiac arrest.

This case highlights the importance of correctly identifying plants before ingesting them. It is also a reminder that even small amounts of delphiniums can be dangerous and potentially fatal. Children are particularly susceptible to accidental ingestion of delphiniums, and it is important to keep these plants out of reach and teach children not to eat any part of the plant.

Symptoms of Delphinium Poisoning in Humans

The symptoms of delphinium poisoning in humans include gastrointestinal upset, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea. In severe cases, the poisoning can lead to cardiac or respiratory failure, seizures, and even death. It is important to note that the prognosis for delphinium poisoning can vary depending on the severity of the exposure and the individual’s overall health.

If left untreated, delphinium poisoning can lead to serious complications, including cardiac or respiratory failure and even death. Seeking prompt medical attention is crucial for a successful recovery.

Treatment for Delphinium Poisoning in Humans

If someone has ingested delphiniums, it is important to seek immediate medical attention. The first step in treating delphinium poisoning is to call 111. Inducing vomiting is not recommended, as it can cause further harm or complications. In milder cases of delphinium poisoning, treatment may involve administering activated charcoal to bind to the toxins and prevent further absorption into the body. The individual may also be given intravenous fluids to help flush the toxins out of their system.

In more severe cases, hospitalization may be necessary. In the hospital, the individual may receive supportive care, such as oxygen therapy and mechanical ventilation to support their breathing. They may also receive medication to help regulate their heart rate and blood pressure.

Delphiniums in a Meadow
Delphiniums in a Meadow

Other Plants You Didn’t Know Were Poisonous

Delphinium Poisoning in Animals

Delphinium poisoning is a concern for both wild and domestic animals, particularly horses and cattle. The toxicity of delphiniums can vary depending on the concentration of the toxic compounds and the amount ingested. Animals may accidentally ingest the plant while grazing or if it is included in their feed. In domestic animals, the symptoms of delphinium poisoning can include gastrointestinal upset, such as vomiting, diarrhoea, and abdominal pain. These symptoms may be followed by neurological signs such as tremors, seizures, and paralysis. In severe cases, delphinium poisoning can lead to cardiac or respiratory failure and even death.

Horses and cattle are particularly susceptible to delphinium poisoning, and it can be fatal if left untreated. In one study, it was found that horses that ingested 0.3% of their body weight in delphiniums showed clinical signs of toxicity, and ingestion of 0.5% of their body weight was fatal. In the United States, millions of dollars worth of cattle are lost due to larkspur poisoning.

Treatment for Delphinium Poisoning in Animals

If you suspect that your animal has ingested delphiniums, it is important to contact a veterinarian immediately. The veterinarian may induce vomiting and administer activated charcoal to bind any remaining toxins in the stomach. Supportive care, such as intravenous fluids and oxygen therapy, may also be necessary.

Preventing accidental ingestion of delphiniums in animals is key. This includes fencing off areas where the plants are growing and ensuring that feed does not contain any delphiniums. Additionally, if delphiniums are grown in an area where horses or cattle graze, it is important to regularly check the area and remove any delphinium plants.

Guidelines for Handling Delphiniums Safely

To avoid accidental poisoning, it is important to handle delphiniums safely. Here are some guidelines to follow when handling these plants:

  • Wear gloves: When handling delphiniums, it is important to wear gloves to avoid contact with the toxic compounds in the plant. Gloves made of latex or nitrile are best for this purpose.
  • Wash hands thoroughly: After handling delphiniums, it is important to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. This will help remove any remaining toxins on your hands so it isn’t transferred to your eyes and mouth.
  • Avoid ingesting any part of the plant: Do not eat or ingest any part of the delphinium plant, including the flowers, leaves, stems, or roots. Even small amounts can be toxic.
  • Keep delphiniums out of reach of children and pets: Children and pets are particularly susceptible to accidental ingestion of delphiniums. Keep these plants out of reach and teach children not to eat any part of the plant.
  • Dispose of delphiniums safely: If you need to dispose of delphiniums, be sure to do so safely. Shred the plants and then add them to your compost bin.

Safety Tips for Pets and Children

If you have children or pets, it is important to take extra precautions when it comes to handling delphiniums. Here are some safety tips to follow:

  • Supervise children and pets: If you have children or pets, it is important to supervise them when they are around delphiniums. Do not let them handle or ingest any part of the plant.
  • Teach children not to eat any part of the plant: Children may be curious and may try to eat or taste the delphinium plant. Teach them that the plant is toxic and should not be eaten or handled.
  • Keep pets away from the plant: Pets, especially dogs and cats, may also be curious and may try to eat or chew on the delphinium plant. Keep the plant out of its reach to prevent accidental ingestion.
  • Train pets to avoid the plant: If you have pets, you can train them to avoid the delphinium plant by using positive reinforcement. Reward them when they stay away from the plant and redirect their attention to other toys or treats.

Conclusion

Delphiniums contain toxic compounds that can be harmful if ingested, and all parts of the plant contain these compounds. Delphinium poisoning can occur in humans and animals, and the symptoms can be severe. However, delphinium poisoning is rare, and there are precautions that can be taken to prevent accidental ingestion of the plant. While delphiniums are a beautiful addition to any garden, it is important to be aware of their potential toxicity. By handling them safely and keeping them out of reach of children and pets, you can enjoy their beauty without putting yourself or others at risk.

Garden Doctor Tips

“Always handle delphiniums with gloves to avoid contact with the toxic compounds in the plant!”

“Wash your hands thoroughly after handling delphiniums to remove any remaining toxins!”

“Do not ingest any part of the delphinium plant, including the flowers, leaves, stems, and roots!”

“Keep delphiniums out of reach of children and pets to prevent accidental ingestion!”

“If you suspect that someone has ingested delphiniums, SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL ATTENTION!”

Frequently Asked Questions

What part of the delphinium is poisonous?

All parts of the delphinium plant contain toxic compounds, including flowers, leaves, stems, and roots. The main toxic compounds found in delphiniums are diterpenoid alkaloids, which can cause a variety of symptoms if ingested.

Can I touch delphiniums?

It is generally safe to touch delphiniums, but the toxins can cause skin irritation and allergic reactions in some people. It is recommended to wear gloves when handling the plant to avoid contact with the toxic compounds in the plant. After handling delphiniums, it is important to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water to remove any remaining toxins.

How toxic are delphiniums to dogs?

Delphiniums are toxic to dogs and can cause a range of symptoms if ingested, including vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, tremors, seizures, and even death in severe cases. It is important to keep delphiniums out of reach of pets and to seek veterinary care immediately if you suspect that your dog has ingested any part of the plant.

Are blue delphiniums poisonous?

All colours of delphiniums, including blue, contain toxic compounds and can be poisonous if ingested. It is important to handle all types of delphiniums with caution and to take precautions to avoid accidental poisoning.

Are petals of a delphinium poisonous?

Yes, the petals of a delphinium plant contain toxic compounds and can be poisonous if ingested. All parts of the delphinium plant, including the flowers, leaves, stems, and roots, should be handled with caution and kept out of reach of children and pets.

Can delphiniums be composted?

Yes, it is recommended that delphiniums are shredded and added to your compost bin. The toxins will break down during the decomposing cycle.


Author

Trevor Wright is not just a seasoned horticulturist; he’s the esteemed Garden Doctor. With a BSc in Horticulture and years of hands-on experience in the soil, Trevor has become a trusted mentor for all things gardening. As the founder of Garden Doctor, he’s committed to clarifying the intricacies of gardening, offering straightforward advice that’s rooted in years of practice. His writing is a garden of how-tos, savvy insights, and comprehensive guides that enable individuals to nurture and grow their garden dreams. When he’s not knee-deep in garden beds, Trevor is at his keyboard passing on his green-thumbed wisdom to budding gardeners, ensuring that the legacy of sustainable and joyful gardening blossoms far and wide.


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