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Pontifications on Poison

Being some ramblings on events associated with poisonous plants.

Wednesday 3rd February 2016

It has taken until today for something to get me writing in 2016. What finally seemed worth giving more than 140 characters to is a timely reminder of the most frequent cause of accidental plant poisoning. I’m hoping this short account will make people aware of the risks and may save some from a most unpleasant few hours.

Daffodils, Narcissus genus

When giving my ‘Lethal Lovelies’ talk, audiences are always surprised when I say that the plants that more people tell me about than any others are from the Narcissus genus, that is the daffodils.

I’ve heard stories of people mistaking the bulbs for onions, people thinking that a bunch of daffs was a bunch of Chinese chives and people not realising that daffodil bulbs had got mixed up with onions. Today, I received an email detailing what to me is a completely novel way of poisoning oneself with daffodils.

My correspondent was thirsty and reached for the glass of water on the kitchen table, downing it in one. Then they (I’m using the singular ‘they’ to disguise gender) remembered that the glass was there because it had played a temporary role as a vase for a bunch of shop bought daffodils pending their proper arrangement once the rest of the shopping was put away.

Daffodils, Narcissus genus

An almost immediate feeling of nausea was quickly followed by several episodes of vomiting. The 111 service said it would send an ambulance but the paramedic rang from the ambulance to get more details and assured my emailer that there was no need for hospitalisation and that the poisoning would pass.

This it did in five hours.

So, another very unpleasant but not long-lasting incident. My inclination is to think that this is the safest time of year for daffodils because so many incidents involve stored bulbs and, at the moment, the bulbs are in the ground. But this report taken with the incidents in Bristol in 2012 show that the cut flowers are perfectly capable of doing a disservice.

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