Hyacinth Hives

multicolored hyacinth

Hyacinth…beautiful to look at, beautiful to smell, but not so lovely to touch!

Last fall I ordered an assortment of hyacinth bulbs to force spring into our apartment once Christmas had been packed up and put away. Last night I went down to our storage locker in the basement where the bulbs have been stored and brought them up. I scrounged around for some suitable containers and started potting up the bulbs. Some of them already had a swollen tip showing they were all juiced up and ready to go.

I had planted about half the bulbs when I started to feel tingly. I chalked it up to the excitement of getting my hands on soil and growing things and continued on. The tingling turned into a burning sensation across my upper chest and neck. Soon it felt like fire ants had been dumped over my head and were slowly devouring me.

I excused myself from my planting operation and went to the washroom to have a look in the mirror. Holy smokes! My neck and chest were aflame and hives were popping up faster than dandelion blossoms in May. Obviously I was about to die.

Well, that’s what happens when you mess around with nature and force it to bloom before its time.

Just to be sure Darcy didn’t need to load me up in the car and careen across town to the hospital. I did a quick Google search. Sure enough, hyacinth bulbs are toxic and can be fatal if ingested. Fortunately I hadn’t snacked on any of the bulbs, so it looked like I might live another day.

Several people reported the oddity of touching the bulbs with their bare hands and getting rashes on their neck and chest, but strangely enough, not on their hands. I started to blame manmade chemicals coating the bulbs for some nefarious reason, but learned the culprit is simply the bulb itself. The remedy was to swallow down a couple Benadryl pills and wash my skin thoroughly with soap and water. It worked. An hour later the bulbs were planted (with plastic bags over my hands in lieu of gloves) and the burning sensation was pretty much over. The hives slowly faded while (hopefully) the bulbs began to purr and pop with life in the pots dotted about the apartment.

In the past I have planted hyacinth in the garden, but I suppose I was always wearing gloves. I had never bare handed them before.

This is what I love about gardening; there is always something new to be learned.  Provided it doesn’t kill you first!

If you have young children or pets you might want to avoid having these bulbs in your home altogether.


Hand planting bulbs

The bulbs pictured here are crocus…they are also poisonous if ingested but apparently they are okay to be handled bare handed. The same cannot be said for the lovely hyacinth!

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