Deadly Daftodils


I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o’er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host, of deadly daffodils

I took my spade and dug them up

In case they make the kiddies ill.

I well recall the mass daffodil poisoning of children in the last century. Poorly educated in the ways of the soil, a craze developed among children for eating daffodils. They stole them and traded them in what became known as the ‘yellow market’. Meeting behind the bike sheds was no longer for a sly smoke or a bit of teenage groping (often both), kids would gather to eat daffodils and swap stories of where best to find the ‘yellow pearl’ as they named it. Gardiners domestic and commercial complained that their daffodils were disappearing from their gardens and nurseries on an industrial scale, and for many weeks, this was a complete mystery. Little did they suspect that daffodils were being consumed by their children and grandchildren. There were unconfirmed reports of some children trying to smoke them and even trying to extract the active ingredient daffodilium from the flowers and inject it.

The horrible truth emerged when children began to fall ill with a mystery illness. Some even died. Hospitals filled up, often full to breaking point and, what became known as Daffodil Wards, were built to cope with the crisis. When it eventually dawned on the toxicologists that it was the consumption of daffodils that was causing this illness action was swiftly taken. The Prime Minister held press conferences on the Daffodil Consumption Crisis. The Chief Medical Officer and the Chief Scientific adviser commissioned studies from the prestigious team of epidemiologists and modellers at Imperious College London and plans for urgent action were quickly put in place. This became known as ‘Flatten the Flower Beds’.

First, there was the mass cull of daffodils followed by restriction on people’s movements. People were advised to stay indoors in case they encountered daffodils and were told to wear surgical gloves for all gardening procedures lest they came into direct contact with a stray daffodil. A new variant of the daffodil emerged which was ten times more deadly than, but which looked identical to, the original strain. The population was promised release from restrictions when the daffodil season was over but new and more deadly strains of daffodil emerged that could survive out of season. It was nearly two years before we were allowed to move freely and in relative safety. The aim of zero-daffodil, it transpired, was impossible to achieve and many still always wear surgical gloves, remain scared to this day to leave their homes and have a form of PTDS (Post-Traumatic Daffodil Syndrome) when they see one of the yellow devils emerge from the spring soil. But most of us have had to learn, in the words of our valiant Prime Minister to ‘live with daffodil’.

Like Basil Fawlty in the sublime Fawlty Towers I headbutted my desktop sat up and looked at the story again. But it was true. The latest threat to our children is not Covid, paedos in speedos or crossing the road. No, it’s daffodils. In St Blazey in Cornwall the daffodils planted in a play area have been cut down. The St Blaise Town Council, which covers St Blazey, denies their involvement but have refused to replant them. Lest a rogue daffodil dares to rear its ugly head, they intend to put up a sign warning people not to eat the daffodils. As a local person said:

“This is totally bonkers.”

Which it truly is.

Roger Watson is a Registered Nurse and Editor-in-Chief of Nurse Education in Practice.

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