Dangerous Daffodils?

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Deadly Daffodils?

Supermarkets in the UK have been warned against placing the ever popular spring daffodils (Narcissus pseudonarcissus L.) near to food products as shoppers can mistake the bulbs for vegetables - people tend to mistake them for onions.

There has been an increase in admissions to hospital over the past few years involving people suffering from the symptoms of poison by daffodil bulbs or stems. In fact according to the BBC news service website, 10 people from a Chinese community were admitted to hospital last spring after eating daffodil stems in the belief they were chives.

A beautiful photograph showing daffodils at sunset.
A beautiful photograph showing daffodils at sunset. | Source
Daffodil bulbs, when placed near to food sources can be mistaken for onions or other vegetables.
Daffodil bulbs, when placed near to food sources can be mistaken for onions or other vegetables. | Source

Daffodil toxins

So are daffodils really dangerous?

Daffodils contain toxic alkaloids - these are naturally occurring chemical compounds found in many organisms. The bulbs, stems, leaves and seed pods of the daffodil all contain poisonous alkaloids that are harmful to people. The bulk of the noxious alkaloids are concentrated in the bulb of the flower. However, the leaves of the flower are toxic to livestock and other animals so care should be taken with puppies, kittens etc if you have daffodils in your garden.

The main human symptoms caused by eating daffodil bulbs or stems are:

  • diarrhoea
  • abdominal pain
  • light-headed/dizzy
  • Dermatitis - can be caused by the sap
  • Convulsions

I don't know of any fatalities from eating daffodil bulbs or stems, but it's interesting to note that there are a number of old wives tales about daffodils and death and they were once very popular as funeral flowers.

Daffodils in an old cemetery - the flower was once used as a funerary flower, especially for infant graves.
Daffodils in an old cemetery - the flower was once used as a funerary flower, especially for infant graves. | Source

Toxic plants in your environment

Are you aware of the toxic plants in your garden, local park etc?

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Beautiful daffodils cheer us up in the spring, but they do have powerful toxins.
Beautiful daffodils cheer us up in the spring, but they do have powerful toxins. | Source

Daffodils and superstitions

A little yellow cup,

A little yellow frill,

A little yellow star

And that's a daffodil.

Anonymous


In days gone by the daffodil, although beautiful, wasn't always viewed with a kind eye. There were a number of superstitions relating to them that mentions bad luck and death. However, the daffodil in some cultures was viewed in a positive light.

  • The latin name for the daffodil - Narcissus pseudonarcissus L. - is thought to derive from the Greek mythological figure, Narcissus. He was said to have fallen in love with his own image reflected in a pool of water. The beautiful nodding heads of the daffodil were thought to represent the golden bowed head of Narcissus as he gazed lovingly at himself.
  • Daffodils - particularly in Wales - were used, along with primroses and violets, as funeral flowers when an infant had died.
  • The ancient Greeks believed that the daffodil grew in Hades and were eaten by the dead who inhabited this terrifying place. Interestingly, the Dutch word de affodil is said to come from the Greek language word asphodel . In Greek myth the asphodel was a flower of the dead and would be seen blooming in meadows where the dead walked.
  • The Egyptians also used the daffodil during funerals. They made daffodil wreaths, hanging them around the funeral area during the ceremony.
  • There are also many superstitions stating that to stand on a daffodil will bring bad fortune. On the other hand, if you go out of your way to avoid standing on a daffodil, this is supposed to bring good luck. In addition, to witness a daffodil head suddenly drooping down was said to signify a death.
  • You could bring daffodils into your home for good luck, but in some traditions, you should avoid bringing the flowers over the threshold if you had birds laying eggs as this was said to bring bad luck to the eggs. In addition, it was thought to bring bad luck if you only brought one daffodil into the home.
  • On a more positive note, daffodils were viewed by the Druids as a flower symbolising purity and so adopted it as their national emblem.
  • Both the Chinese and Persians used the daffodil during their new year celebrations.
  • As a medicine, the Arabians used the daffodil as both a cure for baldness and as an aphrodisiac.

The above is only a small selection of the hundreds of superstitions and folklore related to this popular spring flower. Today, the daffodil is viewed in a very positive light and has been adopted by several different charities across the globe since the daffodil is often associated with rebirth, new things and new beginnings. I for one will continue to love this flower as one of my favourites and a welcome sight after the long winter.

Here's hoping however, that our supermarkets do take note of the warning and that the daffodil bulbs are kept well away from shoppers on the hunt for spring onions!

© 2015 Helen Murphy Howell

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Comments 16 comments

Fire8storm 22 months ago

Well who knew the daffodil was so interesting and potentially dangerous! I certainly didn't. I am aware of some plants and flowers that can be very harmful to pets but it had never occurred to me the lovely daffodil was such a threat. Great Hub, voted up!


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 22 months ago from Shelton

I didnt know these facts.. even the bulbs looking like onions.. what an informative hub.. now that Spring is near.. good to see you and belated Happy New Year and all that jazz...:)


sujaya venkatesh profile image

sujaya venkatesh 22 months ago

oh Wordsworth!


Anna Haven profile image

Anna Haven 22 months ago from Scotland

Interesting facts. You would think that people would notice a taste difference when they ate them. Better in the ground than in the cooker!


ChitrangadaSharan profile image

ChitrangadaSharan 21 months ago from New Delhi, India

Nice and informative hub!

I had no idea about this beautiful flower being dangerous. You provided some very interesting and necessary information. The superstitions attached to it are also unique.

Thanks for sharing! Voted up!


Alastar Packer profile image

Alastar Packer 21 months ago from North Carolina

Gee, thanks Helen. I thought daffodils could be boiled for tea! This got me to thinking about a very old family picture of a babies farm funeral and sure enough there were daffodils in it.


Michael-Milec profile image

Michael-Milec 21 months ago

Hi seeker 7.

An interesting, educational and entertaining read. Daffodils are predominantly beautiful and harmless a " cure for boldness!" ( too late to know.) You have done pretty thorough research to know enough both positive a negative side of the subject,- thus everyone can choose to live avoiding harming oneself.

Voted up, interesting.

Peace with us.


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 21 months ago from Fife, Scotland Author

Hi Fire8storm, many thanks for stopping by and glad you enjoyed the hub. Yes, the daffodil is one of my favourites and it was an eye opener for me to know that it can be so harmful!


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 21 months ago from Fife, Scotland Author

Hi Frank - lovely to hear from you as always and from me to, a belated very happy 2015! I've missed those beautiful dark stories of yours and am looking forward to doing lots of catching up! Glad you liked the daffodil hub!


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 21 months ago from Fife, Scotland Author

Hi sujaya venkatesh - couldn't have put it better myself!


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 21 months ago from Fife, Scotland Author

Hi Anna Haven, many thanks for stopping by and glad you found the hub interesting. Yes you would think people would know. However, after working with the general public for over 25 years as a nurse, nothing surprises me! LOL!


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 21 months ago from Fife, Scotland Author

Hi ChitrangadaSharan, glad that you liked the hub and yes I was very surprised to find out all these facts about the daffodil - and as you say, a very beautiful flower as well.


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 21 months ago from Fife, Scotland Author

Hi Alastar - and my old friend a very belated but very happy 2015 to you! I've been off HP for a while - other things in life had to take priority - but looking forward to catching up with so many wonderful writers and friends.

Glad you enjoyed the hub and that's really interesting about the babies farm funeral and the daffodils. It's fascinating how widespread many of these traditions are.


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 21 months ago from Fife, Scotland Author

Hi Michael-Milec, many thanks for stopping by and glad you enjoyed the hub. I was as surprised as anyone about the dangers of the beautiful 'daffi' one of my favourite flowers - and also had no idea that so many beliefs and traditions were centred around them. Since it is one of my favourites I will certainly choose the more positive aspects of this flower!


poetryman6969 profile image

poetryman6969 21 months ago

There was a story which may or may not be apocryphal about a run on tulip bulbs in Europe. Supposedly what stopped the tulip bonanza was when one guy tried to eat one.


CMHypno profile image

CMHypno 20 months ago from Other Side of the Sun

Interesting hub and beautiful images. There are lots of plants that are dangerous to ingest, so the more information we have the better.

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