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   Index



 

AMARYLLIDACEAE

(Daffodil family)

 

This family of about 1100 species belonging to 85 genera is largely native to the tropics and sub-tropics, but some species occur naturally in temperate regions. Many of the plants are bulbous; others have rhizomes.

A large number of species in several genera are widely cultivated for their attractive flowers. These include species of Boophone Herbert, Crinum L., Haemanthus L., and Pancratium L. The genus Narcissus L., which includes the popular daffodils, narcissi, and jonquils, is very extensively cultivated. This results in frequent and prolonged contact by workers in the bulb and cut flower industries, and to a lesser extent by amateur gardeners and housewives. Somewhat less commonly encountered by gardeners, florists, and the like are various large flowered cultivars belonging to the genus Hippeastrum Herbert. The snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis L.) is also included in this family.

Narcissus species have been cultivated for over 300 years, as have a number of naturally occurring hybrids. Deliberate hybridisation was started in the 19th Century by English gardeners and has since been carried out on such a large scale that the parentage of many popular cultivars is uncertain (Gorer 1970).

The bulbs of Boophone, Crinum, Hippeastrum, Narcissus and of other genera are poisonous on ingestion (Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk 1962, Lewis & Elvin-Lewis 1977). This is probably the case for most species in this family, and is attributable to their content of alkaloids (Fuganti 1975).

Many reports describe skin irritation following contact with members of this family. Primary skin irritation may be caused in part by minute needle-like crystals of calcium oxalate, known as raphides, and in part by alkaloids present in the sap. Some of the alkaloids are also sensitisers.


Amaryllis belladonna L.
(syn. Callicore rosea Link)
Belladonna Lily, Amaryllis

This species occurs naturally in southern Africa but is widely cultivated. The genus is considered to be monotypic (Willis 1973).

The common name amaryllis is also applied to various large flowered cultivars belonging to the genus Hippeastrum, and to a lesser extent to Sprekelia formosissima Herbert, Vallota purpurea Herbert (syn. V. speciosa T. Durand & Schinz), and to certain species of Brunsvigia Heister, Crinum, Lycoris Herbert, Nerine Herbert, Sternbergia Waldst. & Kit., and Zephyranthes Herbert.

Gardner & Bennetts (1956) include "Amaryllis species" in a list of plants known or suspected of causing dermatitis.



Boophone disticha Herbert

This and other species of Boophone are natives of southern and eastern Africa, but may occasionally be found in cultivation. Boophone disticha is very poisonous if eaten, and is irritant to the skin (Kingsley 1967). Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk (1962) provide much support for the poisonous nature of the bulb in particular, but not for its supposed skin irritant properties. They do, however, record that the bulb has been used in southern Africa for the external treatment of various skin conditions.



Crinum bulbispermum Milne-Redh. & Schweick.
(syns Amaryllis bulbisperma Burm. f., Crinum longifolium Roxb., Crinum capense Herbert)
Cape Lily

 

Crinum latifolium L.

The roasted bulb has been used in India as a rubefacient (Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk 1962, Quisumbing 1951).



Crinum zeylanicum L.
Ceylon Swamp Lily

The bulbs will reportedly blister the skin of cattle (Hurst 1942).



Galanthus nivalis L.
Snowdrop

An aqueous extract of the leaves has produced a positive patch test reaction in a gardener (Bleumink & Nater 1974).



Hippeastrum Herbert
Amaryllis, Royal Dutch Amaryllis

At least some species are irritant (Burkill 1935). The positive patch test reported by Agrup (1969) to the leaf of an unnamed cultivar is difficult to interpret.



Hymenocallis declinata M. Roem.
(syn. Hymenocallis caribaea Herbert)

von Reis Altschul (1973) found an herbarium note stating that the plant has been reported as very irritating to the skin.



Narcissus L.
Daffodil

The vernacular nomenclature of the various species is confusing. The term daffodil is commonly used for trumpet narcissi, especially Narcissus pseudonarcissus L.; the term narcissus is used for the remainder, but without consistency. The term jonquil is applied just as inconsistently to Narcissus jonquilla L., and to a number of wild daffodils, and to others thought to resemble them.

Walsh (1910) suggested that the irritant properties of the bulbs could be ascribed to the needle-like crystals of calcium oxalate found in many of the species. The leaves and stems are also mildly irritant.

Many authors refer loosely to "daffodils" and "narcissi" and thus little information is available concerning the sensitising capacity of the different species. However, N. jonquilla as well as N. poeticus and N. tazetta can sensitise (Stryker 1936, Agrup 1969). According to Klaschka et al. (1964), dermatitis from Narcissus is probably always caused partly by an allergic mechanism and partly by irritant effects, the clinical picture depending on the predominance of one or other mechanism and on the mode of exposure. Walsh (1910) noted that dogs also are sometimes affected when running amongst the flowers.

Nurserymen and pickers have repeatedly noted that some cultivars provoke dermatitis more readily than others. The cultivars Camparelle, Ornatus, Gloriosa, Scilly White, Grande Monarque (Walsh 1910), and Actaea and Princeps (Rook 1961) have proved particularly troublesome. Only a large and experienced grower can advise on the relative sensitising capacities of the cultivars in favour at a particular time and place.

The nature of the allergen is unknown (Hjorth & Wilkinson 1968). It is not present in an ether extract but is present in ethanol, acetone, and water extracts (Staines 1958, Bleumink & Nater 1974).

Narcissus absolute, a fragrance raw material prepared from the flowers of various Narcissus species (notably N. poeticus and N. tazetta), was found to be slightly irritating to the skin of mice and swine when applied under occlusion for 24 hours. When applied to human skin at a concentration of 2% in petrolatum, it was found to be non irritant following a 48 hour closed-patch test, and was not found to be a sensitiser in 25 human volunteers (Opdyke 1978). Narcissus absolute is prepared by extraction of the flowers with petroleum ether which is evaporated to produce a "concrete", and this is then extracted to produce the "absolute". The absolute contains linalool, benzyl acetate, benzyl alcohol, terpineol, cineol, phenylpropyl and phenylethyl alcohols and their acetates, n-heptanol, n-nonanal, etc.



Narcissus pseudonarcissus L.
Daffodil, Trumpet Narcissus

Aplin (1966) noted that the sap from the cut stems of this species can cause dermatitis. However, he was probably referring to cultivated daffodils rather than to the wild species.



Pancratium zeylanicum L.

The roots of this and possibly other species are irritant (Burkill 1935).



Scadoxus multiflorus Raf.
(syns Amaryllis multiflora Tratt., Haemanthus multiflorus Martyn, Nerissa multiflorus Salisb.)
Blood Lily, Fireball Lily, Powderpuff Lily

The juice of Haemanthus multiflorus is supposed to produce dangerous swelling of the lips and tongue (Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk 1962).

[Further information available but not yet included in database]



DERMATOLOGY

In the bulb and cut flower industries, those who pick and pack Narcissus species and cultivars are most heavily at risk. It has been estimated that up to 20% of workers may be affected (Schwartz et al. 1957). An expert picker may gather in a day up to 2000 bunches, each of 12 blooms. The skin of the hands and forearms becomes macerated and abraded, and if sensitisation develops, eczematous dermatitis affects mainly the fingers, hands, and forearms, but not uncommonly also affects the thighs and genitalia, and may even be generalised (Walsh 1910, Palmer & Freeman 1934). If warmer weather allows more scanty clothing to be worn, the principal sites affected may be the left forearm and abdominal wall (Marshall 1967).

Bulb handlers may develop dermatitis of the fingers (van der Werff 1959) resembling tulip fingers (see Alstroemeria, fam. Alstroemeriaceae and Tulipa, fam. Liliaceae), but usually less severe.

The dermatitis problem in both the cut flower and bulb producing sections of the industry has on occasion "caused serious dislocation" (Palmer & Freeman 1934).

In florists, dermatitis from Narcissus is less common and is often confined to the hands but may involve the face.

The leaf may be used for patch testing, although tests with stem and flower are also positive (Heyl 1961). Patch tests with the flower and leaf produced positive reactions in a gardener who developed contact dermatitis of the hands from cutting and bunching daffodils. An aqueous extract of the leaves of snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis L.) also produced a positive reaction (Bleumink & Nater 1974).

Although the authors (J.M. & A.R.) have not seen irritant effects from patch tests with leaves, it is a wise precaution always to test some control subjects.


References

  • Agrup G (1969) Hand eczema and other hand dermatoses in South Sweden. Acta Dermato-Venereologica 49(Suppl. 61): 1-91.
  • Aplin TEH (1966) Poison plants in the garden. Journal of Agriculture of Western Australia 7(1): 23-27
  • Bleumink E and Nater JP (1974) Contact dermatitis in a gardener caused by daffodils. Berufsdermatosen 22(3): 123-126.
  • Burkill IH (1935) A Dictionary of the Economic Products of the Malay Peninsula, Vols 1 & 2. London: Crown Agents [WorldCat] [url] [url-2]
  • Fuganti C (1975) The Amaryllidaceae alkaloids. In: Manske RHF (Ed.) The Alkaloids. Vol. 15. pp. 83-164. London: Academic Press.
  • Gorer R (1970) The Development of Garden Flowers. London: Eyre & Spottiswoode [WorldCat] [url] [url-2]
  • Gardner CA and Bennetts HW (1956) The Toxic Plants of Western Australia. Perth: West Australian Newspapers
  • Heyl T (1961) Geneeskunde 3: 296. Cited by Mitchell & Rook (1979)
  • Hjorth N and Wilkinson DS (1968) Contact dermatitis IV. Tulip fingers, hyacinth itch and lily rash. British Journal of Dermatology 80: 696-698.
  • Hurst E (1942) The Poison Plants of New South Wales. Sydney: N.S.W. Poison Plants Committee.
  • Kingsley HJ (1967) Personal communication to Mitchell JC. In: Mitchell J and Rook A (1979) Botanical Dermatology. Plants and plant products injurious to the skin. Vancouver: Greengrass, p. 61.
  • Lewis WH and Elvin-Lewis MPF (1977) Medical Botany. Plants affecting man's health. New York: John Wiley.
  • Marshall J (1967) Personal communication to Mitchell JC. In: Mitchell J and Rook A (1979) Botanical Dermatology. Plants and plant products injurious to the skin. Vancouver: Greengrass, p. 62.
  • Mitchell J and Rook A (1979) Botanical Dermatology. Plants and plant products injurious to the skin. Vancouver: Greengrass, p. 63.
  • Opdyke DLJ (1978) Monographs on fragrance raw materials. Narcissus absolute. Food and Cosmetics Toxicology 16: 827.
  • Palmer WH, Freeman J (1934) "Lily rash": an occupational dermatitis. A possible preventative treatment. Lancet 224(5797): 755-756
  • Quisumbing E (1951) Medicinal Plants of the Philippines. Tech. Bull. Philipp. Agric. Nat. Res. (16). Manila, Philippine Islands: Manila Bureau of Printing.
  • Rook A (1961) Plant dermatitis. The significance of variety-specific sensitization. British Journal of Dermatology 73: 283-287.
  • Schwartz L, Tulipan L and Birmingham DJ (1957) Occupational Diseases of the Skin, 3rd edn. London: Henry Kimpton.
  • Staines FH (1958) Daffodil dermatitis 1957. Journal of the College of General Practitioners and Research Newsletter 1(1): 78-83 [url] [pmid]
  • Stryker GV (1936) Contact dermatitis caused by the jonquil (Narcissus jonquilla). J. Ind. Hyg. Toxicol. 18: 462-465.
  • Van der Werff PJ (1959) Occupational diseases among workers in the bulb industries. Acta Allerg. 14: 338-355.
  • von Reis Altschul S (1973) Drugs and Foods from Little-Known Plants. Notes in Harvard University Herbaria. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press [WorldCat] [url] [url-2]
  • Walsh D (1910) Investigation of a dermatitis amongst flower-pickers in the Scilly Islands, the so-called "lily rash". British Medical Journal ii(2595; Sep 24): 854-856 [doi] [url]
  • Watt JM, Breyer-Brandwijk MG (1962) The Medicinal and Poisonous Plants of Southern and Eastern Africa. Being an account of their medicinal and other uses, chemical composition, pharmacological effects and toxicology in man and animal, 2nd edn. Edinburgh: E & S Livingstone [WorldCat] [url]
  • Willis JC (1973) A Dictionary of the Flowering Plants and Ferns, 8th edn. (Revised by Airy Shaw HK). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press [WorldCat]



Richard J. Schmidt [Valid HTML 4.01!]



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