What! It must be spring! UK Supermarkets have been asked to keep daffodils (the cut flowers and bulbs) away from fruit and vegetables by Public Health England (PHE), who said people had been know to mistake the bulbs for onions and the green stems as popular Chinese vegetables! (see poison effects and symptoms below, including daffodil itch!).
Daffodils / Narcissus
All Narcissus species contain the alkaloid poison lycorine, mostly in the bulb but also in the leaves. Members of the monocot subfamily Amaryllidoideae present a unique type of alkaloids, the norbelladine alkaloids, which are 4-methylcatechol derivatives combined with tyrosine. They are responsible for the poisonous properties of a number of the species. Over 200 different chemical structures of these compounds are known, of which 79 or more are known from Narcissus alone.
The toxic effects of ingesting Narcissus products for both man and animals (such as cattle, goats, pigs and cats) have long been recognised and they have been used in suicide attempts. Ingestion of N. pseudonarcissus or N. jonquilla is followed by salivation, acute abdominal pains, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, then neurological and cardiac events, including trembling, convulsions, and paralysis. Death may result if large quantities are consumed
Many cases of poisoning or death have occurred when narcissi bulbs have been mistaken for leeks or onions and cooked and eaten. Recovery is usually complete in a few hours without any specific intervention. In more severe cases involving ingestion of large quantities of bulbs activated charcoal, salts, and laxatives may be required, and for severe symptoms intravenous atropine and emetics or stomach pumping may be indicated. However, ingestion of large quantities accidentally is unusual because of a strong unpleasant taste. When narcissi were compared with a number of other plants not normally consumed by animals, narcissi were the most repellant, specifically N. pseudonarcissus Consequently narcissus alkaloids have been used as repellents and may also discourage fungi, molds, and bacteria.
On 1 May 2009 a number of schoolchildren fell ill at Gorseland Primary School in Martlesham Heath, Suffolk, England, after a daffodil bulb was added to soup during a cookery class.
One of the most common dermatitis problems for flower pickers, packers, florists and gardeners, “daffodil itch”, involves dryness, fissures, scaling, and erythema in the hands, often accompanied by subungual hyperkeratosis (thickening of the skin beneath the nails). It is blamed on exposure to calcium oxalate, chelidonic acid or alkaloids such as lycorine in the sap, either due to a direct irritant effect or an allergic reaction. It has long been recognised that some cultivars provoke dermatitis more readily than others. N. pseudonarcissus and the cultivars ‘Actaea’, ‘Camparelle’, ‘Gloriosa’, ‘Grande Monarque’, ‘Ornatus’, ‘Princeps’ and ‘Scilly White’ are known to do so.
If bulb extracts come into contact with wounds, both central nervous system and cardiac symptoms may result. The scent can also cause toxic reactions such as headaches and vomiting from N. bulbocodium.