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DAFFODIL (NARCISSUS SPECIES)

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Narcissus and daffodils (as well as tulips) rarely cause fatalities, but they do contain toxic alkaloids that may cause dizziness, abdominal pain and upset, and occasionally, convulsions if eaten.

These remain one of our most popular spring-flowering bulbs, with the creamy or yellow flowers gracing gardens all over temperate North America.


POISON LOCATION

Leaves, stems, berries, and roots all contain toxic compounds. The most potent concentration is usually found in swollen underground stems, known variously as bulbs, rhizomes, and corms.


POISON TYPE

Alkaloids are found in daffodils, possibly in amaryllis (a houseplant in the north), and in snowdrops.


TYPICAL POISONING SCENARIO

Consumption of leaves and stems by livestock or children. In the Netherlands during the Second World War, starving cattle were fed daffodil bulbs and fatally poisoned.


SYMPTOMS

Dizziness, diarrhea, nausea, and pain. Convulsions and death may occur if enough has been eaten.


DAFFODIL POISON INFORMATION

Alkaloids

Alkaloids are nitrogen-bearing alkaline chemicals that originate in plants. They are derived from amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, which especially affect the nervous system. At least 40% of all plant families include plants that contain these compounds.

Many plants have different alkaloids present, each with a specific activity. Some alkaloids are useful medicines; others are harmful, even fatal. Most are bitter tasting. The liver, with the assistance of enzymes, processes the alkaloids that enter the body, rendering some harmless there, while making others more toxic.

One common alkaloid, which many of us seek daily, is caffeine.


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