FAMILY: Amaryllidaceae—the Amaryllis Family
Only one genus of this worldwide family, Hypoxis, is native to the Commonwealth. Other amaryllis encountered in Pennsylvania, such as narcissus, daffadil, snowdrops, and snowflakes, have escaped from European introductions, Flowers are generally bisexual and regular bearing 6 perianth parts in 2 series; in some Narcissus a crown or corona is present; ovary: single, with I pistil; stamens: 6; fruit: a trilocular capsule.
PHENOLOGY: Daffodils are one of the earliest spring-flowering plants. In protected spots the bright yellow flowers appear in March and April.
DISTRIBUTION: Narcissus often escape from cultivation and may be encountered in dense colonies along roadsides, moist meadows, and clearings in the woods. Occasionally old homesteads, the houses no longer standing, can be identified by a row of daffodils in what is now woods.
PLANT CHARACTERISTICS: Floral scapes: 2-4 dm, nearly equalling the linear, parallelveined leaves; flowers: yellow, solitary, 4-6 cm wide; crown as long as the tepals, often frilled.
POISONOUS PARTS: All parts are poisonous, especially the bulbs.
SYMPTOMS: Severe gastroenteritis, vomition, purging, nervous symptoms such as trembling and convulsions, diarrhea, nausea, and death can result from bulb consumption. Irritant dermatitis also can occur when the needle-sharp calcium oxalate crystals, distributed in the outer layers of many Narcissus bulbs, pierce the hands of those working with them. The "wheals" are characteristic of the disease "bulb fingers," a symptom suggestive of histamine release.
POISONOUS PRINCIPLES: Active principles that cause poisonings are unknown.
CONFUSED TAXA: Several species of Narcissus are cultivated; the more common taxon is the daffodil listed above. However, the poet's narcissus, N. poeticus with a smaller white perianth and short (a fourth as long as the tepals) yellow/red-margined corona. also escapes. Narcissus incomparabilis Mill. (corona half as long as the tepals) and N. Jonquilla L. with 2-6 yellow flowers (24 cm wide) per scape also are encountered here.
SPECIES OF ANIMALS AFFECTED: Small amounts of the bulb have caused human poisoning.
TREATMENT: ( 11a)(b); (26)
OF INTEREST: Some commonly cultivated members of the amaryllis family that contain alkaloids known to poison livestock include Amaryllis spp and Galanthus nivalis L. (snowdrops). In the Netherlands cases of poisoning occurred when the bulbs were fed to livestock as emergency feeds during World War II. Snowflakes (Leucogum aestivum L.). also cultivated and escaped in our range, should be treated with suspicion. Snowflakes produce galanthamine (as do some members of the genus Galanthus), which is used medicinally in Europe to treat myasthenia gravis, a muscle and somatic nervous system disorder.