THE POISON GARDEN website      Arum maculatum berries on a Cannabis leaf 


This free script provided by JavaScript Kit

Pontifications on Poison

Being some ramblings on events associated with poisonous plants.

Friday 2nd March 2012

I wrote on Monday that I’d been talking to someone about Narcissus, daffodil, poisoning. What I didn’t explain was that it was a freelance journalist who was trying to run down rumours of an outbreak of poisoning and wanted some background for the piece he hoped to write if the rumours turned out to be true.

I don’t know how he was getting on with his investigative journalism but he could save himself a lot of time now because this story appeared on the BBC website today.

Narcissus, daffodil

Narcissus, daffodil

The discussion I had with him centred on the usual cause of daffodil poisoning, mistaking the bulbs for onions but the story actually turns out to be rather different because ten people had eaten leaves and stalks from the plant and suffered severe vomiting as a result.

The suggestion in the BBC story is that shoppers in Chinese supermarkets in Bristol had bought daffodils and thought they were edible. The Health Protection Agency says it has been in contact with any Chinese supermarket known to be selling bunches of daffodils and they have agreed to place multilingual signs stating that they are not edible.

There seem to be similarities with the story of the Chinese chef on a visit to Australia who died after he cooked toxic mushrooms apparently because he wasn’t familiar with the area and didn’t know that the fungus he picked was not an edible one found in his home area of China.

The confusion here, according to the BBC, is between a type of Chinese chive and daffodils. Though not explicit in the story, it seems that the people poisoned had shopped in different supermarkets and all made the same mistake.

Narcissus, daffodil

Narcissus, daffodil

The natural question to ask first when there is a poisoning or an outbreak of incidents is ‘How has this happened?’ but, I think the more useful question is ‘How hasn’t this happened before?’ Because Bristol is a port city it has had Chinese residents for hundreds of years and bunches of daffodils being sold in supermarkets in the spring goes back to the birth of the supermarket.

If all this year’s poisonings are unrelated, why have such incidents not happened before? Have Chinese supermarkets not stocked daffodils before this year so their customers didn’t know what they were being offered? Are all the victims recent arrivals in the UK who were not here last spring? Or, has there been an error at the wholesale level so that a number of supermarkets have been supplied with daffodils when they ordered Allium tuberosum, Chinese chives?

It is important to try and understand exactly what happened because that is the only way to work out how to stop it happening again. Though the journalist I was speaking to seems to have missed out on breaking the story, I hope he’ll keep looking into it because there could be an interesting explanation.

For me, it means a further addition to the stories I tell about the Narcissus genus and, with a talk coming up next Wednesday, I’m going to have to think about what gets dropped so that I don’t add to the time the talk takes. 


Full Entries


Tuesday 25th October 2016
Saturday 20th August 2016
Sunday 6th March 2016
Wednesday 3rd February 2016


Saturday 28th November 2015
Friday 27th November 2015
Monday 17th August 2015
Wednesday 15th July 2015
Friday 26th June 2015
Thursday 25th June 2015
Thursday 30th April 2015
Wednesday 29th April 2015
Wednesday 11th March 2015
Tuesday 3rd March 2015
Saturday 28th February 2015
Sunday 22nd February 2015

November 2014

Monday 24th November 2014
Saturday 8th November 2014

October 2014

September 2014

Wednesday 24th September 2014
Monday 1st September 2014

August 2014

Tuesday 26th August 2014
Saturday 16th August 2014
Tuesday 5th August 2014
Friday 1st August 2014

July 2014

Sunday 27th July 2014
Wednesday 23rd July 2014
Sunday 13th July 2014
Sunday 6th July 2014
Tuesday 1st July 2014

June 2014

Wednesday 25th June 2014
Tuesday 24th June 2014
Sunday 22nd June 2014
Monday 9th June 2014
Wednesday 4th June 2014

May 2014

Monday 26th May 2014
Sunday 18th May 2014
Wednesday 14th May 2014

April 2014

Sunday 13th April 2014
Saturday 5th April 2014
Thursday 3rd April 2014
Tuesday 1st April 2014

March 2014

Monday 31st March 2014
Tuesday 25th March 2014
Friday 21st March 2014
Monday 17th March 2014
Sunday 16th March 2014
Tuesday 11th March 2014
Tuesday 11th March 2014
Thursday 6th March 2014
Wednesday 5th March 2014
Saturday 1st March 2014

February 2014

Thursday 27th February 2014
Monday 24th February 2014
Wednesday 19th February 2014
Monday 17th February 2014
Thursday 13th February 2014
Monday 4th February 2014
Monday 3rd February 2014
Saturday 1st February 2014

January 2014

Thursday 28th January 2014
Thursday 23rd January 2014
Friday 17th January 2014
Wednesday 15th January 2014
Monday 13th January 2014
Thursday 9th January 2014
Tuesday 7th January 2014
Wednesday 1st January 2014

December 2013

Monday 23rd December 2013
Friday 20th December 2013
Tuesday 17th December 2013
Friday 14th December 2013
Thursday 12th December 2013
Sunday 8th December 2013
Wednesday 4th December 2013
Sunday 1st December 2013

November 2013

Friday 29th November 2013
Wednesday 27th November 2013
Tuesday 26th November 2013
Friday 22nd November 2013
Monday 18th November 2013
Friday 15th November 2013
Thursday 14th November 2013
Sunday 10th November 2013
Thursday 7th November 2013
Wednesday 6th November 2013
Friday 1st November 2013

October 2013

Thursday 31st October 2013
Sunday 27th October 2013
Wednesday 23rd October 2013
Monday 21st October 2013
Friday 18th October 2013
Friday 11th October 2013
Wednesday 9th October 2013
Tuesday 8th October 2013
Monday 7th October 2013
Tuesday 1st October 2013

September 2013

Monday 30th September 2013
Saturday 28th September 2013
Friday 27th September 2013
Monday 23rd September 2013
Sunday 15th September 2013
Monday 9th September 2013
Tuesday 3rd September 2013
Sunday 1st September 2013

August 2013

Sunday 8th September 2013
Tuesday 3rd September 2013
Sunday 1st September 2013

Tuesday 27th August 2013
Sunday 25th August 2013
Monday 19th August 2013
Friday 16th August 2013
Tuesday 13th August 2013
Friday 9th August 2013
Friday 2nd August 2013
Thursday 1st August 2013

July 2013

Saturday 27th July 2013
Sunday 21st July 2013
Wednesday 17th July 2013
Monday 15th July 2013
Saturday 13th July 2013
Friday 12th July 2013
Thursday 11th July 2013
Wednesday 10th July 2013
Tuesday 9th July 2013
Saturday 6th July 2013

June 2013

Friday 28th June 2013
Tuesday 25th June 2013
Friday 21st June 2013
Thursday 20th June 2013
Wednesday 19th June 2013
Saturday 15th June 2013
Sunday 9th June 2013
Saturday 8th June 2013
Saturday 1st June 2013

May 2013

April 2013

March 2013

February 2013

January 2013

December 2012

November 2012

October 2012

September 2012

August 2012

July 2012 blog

June 2012 blog

May 2012 blog

April 2012 blog

March 2012 blog

February 2012 blog

January 2012 blog

December 2011 blog

November 2011 blog

October 2011 blog

September 2011 blog

August 2011 blog

July 2011 blog

June 2011 blog


The POISON GARDEN website is not connected with Alnwick Garden Enterprises Ltd and/or The Alnwick Garden Trust.