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What Is a Blood Lily?

Due to its toxic chemicals, deer do not eat the blood lily.
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  • Written By: Laura Evans
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 05 October 2014
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Native to Africa, the blood lily, or African blood lily, is a perennial plant that can be grown from seeds or bulbs. This lily has a short blooming period that lasts about two weeks. The bulb of this plant is toxic to both people and animals when eaten.

Blood lilies do well in full sun, although their flowers will last longer if the lilies are planted in partial shade. These lilies prefer well-drained, consistently moist soil, although it is possible to over water the plants. The plants also grow well in containers.

In temperate areas, a blood lily may die back during winter. Blood lilies should be covered with mulch during the winter months in cooler temperature zones. These lilies should be removed from the ground and stored during the winter months if the weather is severe.

When planted from a seed, a blood lily will typically not bloom until the third year. Blood lilies can be separated and replanted after the lilies bloom. These lilies bloom once every year during mid to late summer. The blooms consist of almost 200 tiny red to orange flowers that are bunched together spherically. Flowers ultimately become bright red berries.

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The fact that the bulbs of the blood lily are toxic is both good and bad. It is good for the plant itself because its toxicity prevents animals such as deer or rodents from eating the lily, although the lily will still attract snails and slugs. Unfortunately, children and house pets may not know this information.

Blood lilies contain chemicals such as lycorine that are poisonous. Although a blood lily is considered to be "relatively low" in toxicity, eating the bulbs can cause discomfort, including nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. Depending on the amount of the plant the person or animal ate, the smaller the person or animal, the more severe the symptoms of consuming blood lily bulbs are likely to be.

When a cat or a dog eats part of a blood lily, the animal should be taken to a veterinarian as soon as possible. If the poisoning occurs “off hours,” the pet can be taken to a pet emergency hospital. The owner can also call a poison center hot line for pets for advice.

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