SCILLA (ENDYMION SPECIES)
Scilla and other early spring-flowering bulbs are commonly naturalized in Nova Scotian gardens. Many of these members of the lily family contain cardiac glycosides, which act rather like the drug digitalis.
Children, especially, have been poisoned by eating the berries. An extract of lily of the valley was once used as a medicinal heart stimulant, but it has now been replaced in pharmacology by digitalis, which is an extract of foxgloves.
Leaves, stems, berries, and roots all contain toxic compounds. The most potent concentration is usually found in swollen underground stems, known variously as bulbs, rhizomes, and corms.
Glycosides in wild hyacinth, star-of-Bethlehem, and lily of the valley. Alkaloids in Indian hellebore, autumn crocus, and tulips. While Indian hellebore, autumn crocus, and lily of the valley have, or have had, medicinal uses, all of these plants can be dangerous or fatal if ingested in large doses.
TYPICAL POISONING SCENARIO
Consumption of leaves, stems, and/or quantities of berries by livestock or children. During the Second World War, starving Dutch cattle—and sometimes starving Hollanders—ate tulip bulbs with sickening and occasionally fatal results.
Indian hellebore and autumn crocus: Reduced blood pressure, cardiac arrest.
Wild hyacinth, star of Bethlehem, and lily of the valley: Increased heart rate and blood pressure, cardiac arrest.
Tulips and daffodils: Dizziness, nausea, abdominal pain, and—rarely—convulsions and death.
SCILLA POISON INFORMATION
Glycosides are toxins in which at least one sugar molecule is linked with oxygen to another compound, often nitrogen-based. They become harmful when the sugar molecule is stripped off, as in the process of digestion.