A harbinger of spring, the nodding yellow blooms of the daffodil generally appear before other garden flowers. Despite the cheer and beauty they bring to the landscape, the plants pose a danger to pets, livestock, horses and humans. Select a safe planting location for the bulbs to ensure that the toxic plant is not accidentally ingested.
The bulb, root, stem, leaves, flowers and berries of the daffodil all pose a toxic risk if consumed. During World War II, farmers fed their starving cattle daffodils in a vain attempt to save the animals. They were all fatally poisoned from the incident. The bulbs are sometimes inadvertently mistaken for wild onions and consumed, which results in poisoning. Never keep daffodil bulbs near the kitchen.
The daffodil plant contains toxic lycorine and other alkaloids. Symptoms of poisoning from ingesting a daffodil include excessive salivation, vomiting, diarrhoea, decreased blood pressure, dizziness, abdominal pain, cardiac arrhythmia, tremors and convulsions. Death may also occur. One daffodil bulb can kill a dog. The toxic reaction becomes more intense when livestock or horses consume the plant because they do not have the ability to vomit as humans, dogs and cats do.
Florists and gardeners often suffer from skin reactions on their hands and arms from the sap of the daffodil plant. Ancient Romans used the sap from the daffodil plant to treat minor wounds, which only exacerbated the problem. The sap contains sharp crystals of calcium oxalate, which irritate the skin. Consider wearing gloves and a long-sleeved shirt when handling any part of the daffodil plant. When using the daffodil as a cut flower, place the vase containing the flowers in an area of your home where children or pets cannot reach it.
Over 25,000 varieties and cultivars of daffodils exist that differ in bloom colour, shape and height. Plant the bulbs during the fall months in a area that receives full sunlight. Cut off the spent flower heads after blooming to prevent seed production. Trim off the plant's foliage about six weeks after the last flower blooms. Discard the leaves in a safe place away from pets or livestock. Consider digging up the plant's bulbs and storing until the fall, or leave the bulbs in the ground. Dig up older daffodil bulbs every two or three years to divide.