Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Toxicology Tuesday, November 6

Perhaps you have been doing what I have been doing lately, planting spring flowering bulbs. And perhaps you have been wondering, "KatDoc, are these daffodils ..."

Toxic or Not?

Answer: Toxic
Many spring flowering bulbs may cause mild to moderate GI irritation, but daffodils (Narcissus) are the worst of the true bulbs. (It is not my intention to discuss other flowering plants with rhizomes, corms, or tubers in this post.)

Remember when talking about toxic plants, we need to be specific about what part or parts of the plant are toxic. In the case of the daffodil, all parts are considered to be poisonous, but the toxic agents, chemicals known as alkaloids, are concentrated in the bulbs.

The primary signs are vomiting and diarrhea, but hypothermia, tremors, convulsions, and death have been reported. Contact dermatitis (skin inflammation) has been seen in people, particularly among workers in the flower industry, from the calcium oxalate crystals found in the sap, but not pets.

There is no antidote for alkaloid poisoning. Treatment consists of decontamination, IV fluid support, and additional medications for seizures, if needed. The signs may last from a few hours to a day.

Additional spring flowering bulbs that may be toxic (agent):

Tulips - mild vomiting and diarrhea, contact dermatitis (allergens)
Crocuses - vomiting, diarrhea (unknown)
Snowdrops (Galanthus) - vomiting, diarrhea (alkaloids)
Hyacinth - vomiting and diarrhea (unknown agent), contact dermatitis (allergens)
Grape hyacinth (Muscari) - vomiting, diarrhea (unknown)


holly said...

Yes, bulbs can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and even death. Treatment....?

Anonymous said...

Toxic, as are almost all bulbs in the garden.

KGMom said...

I am going to go with toxic--in general, I think dogs should steer clear of all things bulbed.
Now, why don't squirrels succumb? They dig up bulbs and eat them, no?

Kathy said...

I have always heard that daffodils are toxic to dogs. Gophers eat them with no problem too, kgmom. One year gophers ate all my newly planted bulbs just as they were blooming, leaving the flowers and stems laying on the ground.

dguzman said...

I go with toxic. Seems like flower bulbs would be.

littleorangeguy said...

Hmmm ... does daffodil toxicity have something to do with why the g-d squirrels will not go near them (as opposed to, say, anything remotely approaching a tulip, which they basically dip in salsa and devour with a margarita)?

I know, I know ... you're katdoc, not squirreldoc...

But let's just say we have several lovely beds of daffs, and I've often wondered WHY.

nina said...

Bulbs=toxic. Like onions?

KatDoc said...

Well done, all. Looks like everybody knows to keep the daffodil bulbs out of Rover's reach.

I didn't know that gophers would eat them, though. I thought that the reason squirrels and deer avoid daffodil plants and bulbs was because of the toxicity.

Of course, it is possible that gophers have develop a resistance to the toxin and are able to eat them without any bad side effects.


Julie Zickefoose said...

Let me just point out that squirrels have the most amazingly large and effective livers, allowing them to eat toxic mushrooms and bulbs with relative impunity. I don't know why I know that, but it's true. Rats have much the same liver capacity.

Now. My favorite Stupid Zick Trick was once when I was multitasking by arranging a vase of daffodils while cooking a stir fry. I mistook the daffodil stems for scallions, cut them into little rounds and threw them on the stir-fry I was making for lunch. Ate a bunch of them while wondering why they didn't have any "kick" to them. Ooooops. Called Poison Control where they told me to keep an eye on myself, essentially, and reassured me that the bulbs were the thing to watch out for. No ill effects. Durrrr.

Marvin said...

Daffodils are great: They bloom in the early spring and the deer don't eat them.

Recently I read -- and just refreshed my memory with Google -- that the entire plant is toxic (Phenanthridine alkaloids)and will even cause other flowers to wilt if used in a mixed arrangement. That's not a problem around here because nothing else is blooming at the same time.

The toxicity supposedly only becomes a problem "if eaten in large quantities." Obviously, a few stems in stir fry is okay, but not necessarily recommended.

KatDoc said...

OMG, Zick! In my reference article for daffodil poisoning, it said:

"Human exposures often result from mistaking Narcissus species bulbs for onions or shallots."

I didn't even include that because I thought, "Who would be so stupid as to mix up daffodils and shallots?"

And here a Science Chimp confesses to confusing daffodil stems and scallions. I take back my (mental) "stupid" comment. Glad it was just the stems and not the bulbs.

Thanks for your contributions to Tox Tues.


nina said...

I'm sure the "stupid things I've done" category for each of us is quite large, truth be told.