It's hard to believe that the cheery yellow daffodils of spring carry toxins that can cause unpleasant reactions and even death. Daffodil bulb poisoning occurs most often when people use the bulbs in food preparation, though livestock or other animals who accidentally graze on the bulb can sicken and die. If you take the right precautions, you can still enjoy daffodil flowers in your garden, but study the symptoms of daffodil poisoning in case of accidental ingestion.
If you've accidentally eaten a daffodil bulb, you've probably mistaken it for an onion, according to Botanical.com and The Poison Garden. Botanical.com notes that symptoms come on very soon after you've eaten the bulb. The most frequent symptoms of daffodil bulb poisoning are nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. Daffodil bulb poisoning may cause death.
According to Texas A&M, only the daffodil bulb is poisonous. However, the Nova Scotia Museum and The Poison Garden warn that all parts of the plant are poisonous, but that the toxins are most concentrated in the bulb. The bulb and shoots of the daffodil bear a strong resemblance to small onions.
The poisonous substance in the daffodil bulb is a type of alkaloid also found in hyacinth, narcissus and snowdrops. Most alkaloids taste bitter, but not all alkaloids are poisonous. The Nova Scotia Museum notes that some alkaloids have medicinal uses while others are harmful, and that most plant families have species that contain alkaloids. Coffee is an example of a common nontoxic plant-based alkaloid.
The severity of your illness depends on how much daffodil bulb you've consumed. If you've consumed a small amount or eaten something (like soup) where you're getting more flavour than actual bulb, you're likely to have only an upset stomach. If you feel extremely ill and experience diarrhoea or vomiting, see a doctor.
To prevent daffodil poisoning, store any unused bulbs in a plastic bag and write "daffodil bulb" on the label. Keep them in a separate storage area from any root vegetables or edibles you have at home. Do not forage for onions in the woods, near streams or from community gardens, since you might take home a daffodil bulb instead.