The Narcissus Plant – Pretty But Deadly!

I’ve blogged before about some deceptively attractive plants that can be lethal when ingested, and I’ve recently discovered one more to add to the list.

Parts of the beautiful, flowering narcissus plant can be quite poisonous and Narcissusdeadly! Narcissus is a popular ornamental plant for personal gardens, community parks and as cut flowers in the spring and early summer. But it can be as toxic as it is beautiful and is on the list of the top ten most poisonous plants in the world.

The Tulipa/Narcissus plant species, with up to 60 different varieties, originally came from1024px-Narcissus_white Holland. This plant is commonly known by its three most popular varieties: the narcissus, the jonquil and the daffodil. All species of the narcissus plant family, however, contain a common deadly element: the poison lycorine.

Lycorine is a toxic crystalline alkaloid that is highly poisonous, and can be fatal if enough of the plant is ingested. Lycorine is found mostly in the bulbs of the narcissus plant family, but it is also present in the leaves.

This alkaloid inhibits protein synthesis. Depending on the amount consumed, the poison can produce intense gastrointestinal irritation, drooling, loss of appetite, headaches, low blood pressure, central nervous system depression, convulsions and cardiac abnormalities. If someone is given a large enough dose, death could result.

The Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants by Lewis S. Nelson et al describes the symptoms of narcissus poisoning well and warns that children under six are especially vulnerable.

An interesting side note is that florists who handle the plant’s leaves often thdevelop a stubborn dermatitis. The condition is called “daffodil itch” and the symptoms include dryness, skin cracking and fissures, scaling and extreme redness of the skin. There is also an accompanying thickening of the skin beneath the nails from exposure to the plant’s sap.

The daffodil variety of Tulipa/Narcissus is responsible for many accidental poisonings since the daffodil bulbs look so similar to onions and might mistakenly be substituted in cooking for onions. There is evidence in literature that consumption of one or two daffodil2836068-daffodil-bulbs bulbs could prove lethal for the average adult human.

On May 1st, 2009 school children at a primary school in Martlesham Heath, Suffolk, England became seriously ill after a single daffodil bulb was added to soup by mistake during a cooking class.

So the next time you’re searching for an interesting method to kill off a character in your story, have another character cook up a batch of onion soup using several daffodil bulbs instead. The soup will be deliciously deadly!

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

About James J. Murray, Fiction Writer

With experience in both pharmaceutical manufacturing and clinical patient management, medications and their impact on one’s quality of life have been my expertise. My secret passion of murder and mayhem, however, is a whole other matter. I’ve always loved reading murder mysteries and thrillers, and longed to weave such tales of my own. Drawing on my clinical expertise as a pharmacist and my infatuation with the lethal effects of drugs, my tales of murder, mayhem and medicine will have you looking over your shoulder and suspicious of anything in your medicine cabinet.
This entry was posted in About James J. Murray, About Murder, About Writing, All About Murder, All About Writing, Blog Writers, Blogging, Bloodless Death Scene Writing, Bloodless Death Scenes, Botanical Murder Weapons, Chemicals Used For Murder, Common Varieties of Narcissus Plant Family, Contact Poisons, Daffodil Plant Dangers, Deadly Daffodil Bulbs, Deadly Poison Lycorine, Developing Writing Skills, Drug Poisoning, Drug Poisoning in Children, Drugs For Murder Plots, Drugs Used to Murder, Eating Poisonous Plants, How To Write A BloodLess Murder Scene, Ideas for Murder Scenes, Interesting Murder Weapons, Jonquil Plant Dangers, Killing a Villain in a Novel, Killing Off Characters in Your Novel, Killing With Poisonous Plants, Murder Weapons, Murder With Drugs, Murder With Poisonous Plants, Narcissus Plant Dangers, New Methods To Kill Characters in Your Novel, Plant Poisons, Plants That Kill, Plants Used For Murder, Plotting Murder Scenes, Poisonous Daffodil Bulbs, Poisonous Narcissus Plant, Poisonous Plants, Poisons Used For Murder, Prescription For Murder Blog, The Science of Murder, Top 10 Most Poisonous Plants, Ways to Murder and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to The Narcissus Plant – Pretty But Deadly!

  1. I LOVE this one. Thanks, James!

  2. Thanks, I had fun researching and writing this one also. All the best!

  3. Thank you James, a very interesting read! Beyond the benefit of using this information in one of our novels or short stories, I wonder how many of your readers have both daffodils and pets. Would the toxicity be the same for say, dogs and cats if they began chewing on the leaves or dug up the bulbs and ate one? Would a good rule of thumb be if we have pets who frequent our yards, get rid of the daffodils?

    • You bring up an interesting and throught-proviking point. According to the research I’ve found, much has been written about deadly poisonings for dog and cat pets. Having daffodils in your gardens along with curious pets, might invite a safety issue and I would error on the side of caution and replace those daffodils with other equally-attractive flowering plants. Thanks for your comments!

  4. Another great prescription, Jim. I’ll never look the same way again at daffodil bulbs while planting them.

  5. Dorian says:

    Can you get posioned from inhaling it?

  6. Oh, I’m so sorry to hear about your “daffodil itch” and the best of luck in getting it resolved. Yes, it’s great advice to wear gloves when handling this plant. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Duncan says:

    Hi James, could a death caused by this poison be passed off as a heart attack particularly in someone who already has cardiac problems or would the medical examiner/coroner be suspicious?

    • Hi Duncan:
      Cardiac abnormalities with this poison could possibly be attributed to a heart condition, but the other side effects would likely alert an ME to investigate further — for possibly a poison, so it might be a stretch for an ME not to become suspicious and investigate further.
      All the best in developing your plot.

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