Temporal range: 24–0Ma Late Oligocene - Recent
|Narcissus poeticus L.
Narcissus // is a genus of mainly hardy, predominantly spring-flowering, bulbous perennial plants in the Amaryllidaceae or amaryllis family, subfamily Amaryllidoideae. Various common names including daffodil,[notes 1] narcissus (plural narcissi), jonquil and Lent (or Lenten) lily are used to describe all or some members of the genus.
The flowers of Narcissus are conspicuous and brightly coloured, with a basal segment of six petal-like tepals surmounted by a bowl-, cup- or trumpet-shaped corona, often referred to as the 'trumpet'. The flowers are generally white or yellow (rarely green), extending to orange and pink in garden hybrid cultivars, and may be uniform in colour or have contrasting tepals and corona. Species of Narcissus were well known to the ancients both medicinally and botanically, although the genus was not formally described until Linnaeus published his Species Plantarum in 1753. The exact taxonomy remains relatively unsettled, but generally the genus is considered as having about ten sections with approximately 50 species. The number of defined species has ranged widely depending on the authority, with the exact number depending on how they are classified. The disparity is due to similarity between species and hybridization between them. The genus Narcissus appears to have arisen some time in the Late Oligocene to Early Miocene eras, in the Iberian peninsula and adjacent areas of southwest Europe.
The exact origin of the name Narcissus is unknown, but it is often linked to a Greek word for intoxicated (narcotic) and the myth of the youth of that name who fell in love with his own reflection. The English word daffodil appears to be derived from asphodel, with which it was commonly compared.
The species are native to meadows and woods in southwest Europe and North Africa with a center of diversity in the Western Mediterranean, particularly the Iberian peninsula. However both wild and cultivated plants have naturalised widely, and were introduced into the Far East prior to the tenth century.
In general, narcissi tend to be long-lived bulbs which propagate by division, but the flowers are also insect pollinated. Known pests, diseases and disorders include viruses such as the Narcissus mosaic virus, fungi, the larvae of flies, mites and nematodes. Some Narcissus species have become extinct, while others are threatened by increasing urbanisation and tourism.
While historical accounts suggest narcissus have been cultivated from the earliest times, they became increasingly popular in Europe after the sixteenth century, and by the late nineteenth century were an important commercial crop centred primarily on the Netherlands. Nowadays Narcissus are popular as cut flowers and as ornamental plants in private and public gardens. The long history of Narcissus breeding has resulted in thousands of different cultivars. For horticultural purposes, Narcissus are classified into twelve different divisions, covering a wide range of shapes and colours.
Like other members of their family, narcissi produce a number of different alkaloids, which while providing some protection for the plant, may be poisonous if accidentally ingested. However, this property has been exploited for medicinal use in traditional healing and has resulted in the production of galanthamine for the treatment of Alzheimer's dementia.
Long celebrated in art and literature, the narcissi are associated with a number of themes in different cultures, ranging from death to good fortune, and as symbols of Spring. The daffodil is the national flower of Wales and the symbol of cancer charities in many countries. The appearance of the wild flowers in spring is associated with festivals in many places.
- 1 Description
- 2 Taxonomy
- 3 Distribution and habitat
- 4 Ecology
- 5 Conservation
- 6 Cultivation
- 7 Toxicity
- 8 Uses
- 9 Culture
- 10 See also
- 11 References
- 12 Notes
- 13 Bibliography
- 13.1 General
- 13.2 Flora
- 13.3 Narcissus
- 13.4 Historical research
- 13.5 Literature and art
- 13.6 Databases
- 13.7 Societies and organisations
- 13.8 Cultivation
- 13.9 References
- 13.10 Geography
- 14 Wikimedia links
Narcissus is a genus of perennial herbaceous geophytes. The plants are bulbiferous, growing from brown-skinned ovoid bulbs with pronounced necks, and grow to from 5–80 cm tall depending on the species. Dwarf species such as N. asturiensis have a maximum height of only 5–8 cm, while N. italicus (N. tazetta ssp. italicus) may grow as tall as 80 cm.
The plants are scapose, having a single central leafless hollow flower stem (scape). There are several green or blue-green, narrow, strap-shaped leaves that arise from the bulb. The plant stem usually bears a solitary flower, but occasionally a cluster of flowers (umbel). The flowers, which are usually conspicuous and generally white to yellow, rarely green (with stronger colours from orange to red particularly in the corona), consist of a perianth of three parts, a proximal tube above the ovary, an outer ring composed of six tepals, and a central disc to conical shaped corona. The flowers may be pendent, or erect. There are six stamens surrounding a central style. The ovary is inferior (below the floral parts) consisting of three chambers (trilocular). The fruit consists of a dry capsule that splits (dehisces) releasing numerous black seeds.
The bulb lies dormant after the leaves and flower stem die back and has contractile roots that pull it down further into the soil. The flower stem and leaves form in the bulb to emerge the following season. Most species are dormant from summer to late winter, flowering in the spring, though a few species are autumn flowering.
The pale brown-skinned ovoid tunicate bulbs have a membranous tunic and corky base plate from which arise the root hairs in a ring around the edge, which grow up to 40 cm in length. Once the leaves die back in summer, the roots also wither. After some years, the roots shorten pulling the bulbs deeper into the ground (contractile roots). The bulbs develop from the inside, pushing the older layers outwards which become brown and dry, forming an outer shell. Up to 60 layers have been counted in some wild species. The flower stalk which will start to grow in the following spring, develops within the bulb surrounded by two to three deciduous leaves and their sheaths. The flower stem lies in the axil of the second true leaf.
The single leafless stem or scape, appearing from early to late spring depending on the species, bears from 1 to 20 blooms. Stem shape depends on the species, some are highly compressed with a visible seam, while others are rounded. The stems are upright and located at the centre of the leaves. It is hollow in the upper portion but towards the bulb is more solid and filled with a spongy material. In a few species such as N. hedraeanthus the stem is oblique (asymmetrical).
One to several basal leaves which are linear to ligulate to strap shaped (long and narrrow), sometimes channelled adaxially to semiterete, and may (pedicellate) or may not (sessile) have a petiole stalk. The leaves are flat and broad to cylindrical at the base and arise from the bulb. The emerging plant generally has two leaves, but the mature plant usually three, rarely four, and they are covered with a cutin containing cuticle, giving them a waxy appearance. Leaf colour is light green to blue-green. In the mature plant the leaves extend higher than the flower stem, but in some species the leaves are low hanging. The leaf base is encased in a colourless sheath. After flowering the leaves turn yellow and die back once the seed pod is ripe.
The inflorescence is scapose, the single stem or scape bearing either a solitary flower or forming an umbel with up to 20 blooms. Species bearing a solitary flower include section Bulbocodium and most of section Pseudonarcissus. Umbellate species have a fleshy racemose inflorescences with 2 to 15 or 20 flowers, such as N. papyraceus (see illustration) and N. tazetta. The flower arrangement on the inflorescence is either pedicellate or sessile.
Prior to opening, the flower buds are enveloped and protected in a thin dry papery or membranous (scarious) spathe. The spathe consists of a singular bract that is ribbed, which remains wrapped around the base of the open flower. As the bud grows, the spathe splits longitudinally. Bracteoles are small or absent.
The flowers of Narcissus are hermaphrodite (bisexual), tripartite, solitary to umbellate, the perianth yellow, white or bicoloured, rarely green and sometimes fragrant. The flower symmetry is actinomorphic to slightly zygomorphic due to declinate-ascending stamens. Narcissus flowers are characterised by their, usually conspicuous, corona (trumpet).
The three major floral parts (in all species except N. cavanillesii in which the corona is virtually absent - Table) are;
- (i) the proximal floral tube,
- (ii) the surrounding free tepals, and
- (iii) the more distal corona (paraperigon, paraperigonium).
The floral tube is formed by fusion of the basal segments of the tepals (proximally connate). It is obconic to funneliform or cylindrical, and is surmounted by the more distal corona. Floral tubes can range from long and narrow in sections Apodanthi and Jonquilla to rudimentary (N. cavanillesii).
Surrounding the floral tube and corona and reflexed from the rest of the perianth are the six spreading tepals or floral leaves, which may be distally ascending, reflexed (folded back), or lanceolate. Like many monocotyledons, the perianth is homochlamydeous, that is undifferentiated into separate calyx (sepals) and corolla (petals), but rather has six tepals. The three outer tepal segments may be considered sepals, and the three inner segments petals. The transition point between the floral tube and the corona is marked by the insertion of the free tepals on the fused perianth.
The corona is variously described as bell-shaped (funneliform, trumpet), bowl-shaped (cupular, crateriform, cup shaped) or disc-shaped with margins that are often frilled, and is free from the stamens. Rarely the corona is a simple callose (hardened, thickened) ring. The corona is formed during floral development as a tubular outgrowth from stamens which fuse into a tubular structure, the anthers becoming reduced. At its base the fragrances which attract pollinators are formed. All species produce nectar at the top of the ovary. Coronal morphology varies from the tiny pigmented disk of N. serotinus (see Table) or the rudimentary structure in N. cavanillesii to the elongated trumpets of section Pseudonarcissus (trumpet daffodils, Table).
While the perianth may point forwards, in some species such as N. cyclamineus it is folded back (reflexed, see illustration), while in some other species such as N. bulbocodium (Table), it is reduced to a few barely visible pointed segments with a prominent corona.
Flower colour ranges from white to pale or deep yellow, although N. viridiflorus (Table) is green and night flowering. The tepals are white to yellow and the corona white to yellow to orange. Flower diameter varies from 12 to 125 mm.
Flower orientation may be pendent (declinate-ascendant) (N. triandrus (see illlustration), N. alpestris = N. pseudonarcissus subsp. moschatus) horizontal (patent, spreading) such as (N. gaditanus or N. poeticus), erect (N. cavanillesii, N. serotinus Table II), or intermediate (erecto-patent).
The flowers of Narcissus demonstrate exceptional floral diversity and sexual polymorphism, primarily by corona size and floral tube length, associated with pollinator groups (see for instance Figs. 1 and 2 in Graham and Barrett). Barrett and Harder (2005) describe three separate floral patterns;
- 'Daffodil' form
- 'Paperwhite' form
- 'Triandrus' form.
The 'daffodil' form, which includes sections Pseudonarcissus and Bulbocodium, has a relatively short, broad or highly funnelform tube (funnel-like), which grades into an elongated corona, which is large and funnelform, forming a broad, cylindrical or trumpet-shaped perianth. Section Pseudonarcissus consists of relatively large flowers with a corolla length of around 50mm, generally solitary but rarely in inflorescences of 2-4 flowers. They have wide greenish floral tubes with funnel shaped bright yellow coronas. The six tepals sometimes differ in colour from the corona and may be cream coloured to pale yellow.
The 'paperwhite' form, including sections Jonquilla, Apodanthi and Narcissus, has a relatively long, narrow tube and a short, shallow, flaring corona. The flower is horizontal and fragrant.
The 'triandrus' form is seen in only two species, N. albimarginatus (a Moroccan endemic) and N. triandrus. It combines features of both the 'daffodil' and 'paperwhite' forms, with a well-developed, long, narrow tube and an extended bell-shaped corona of almost equal length. The flowers are pendent.
There are six stamens in one to two rows (whorls), filaments separate from corona, attached at the throat or base of the tube (epipetalous), often of two separate lengths, straight or declinate-ascending (curving downwards, then upwards). Anthers basifixed (attached at base).
The ovary is inferior (below the floral parts) and trilocular (three chambered) and there is a pistil with a minutely three lobed stigma and filiform (thread like) style, often exserted (extending beyond the tube).
Most species have 12 ovules and 36 seeds, although some species such as N. bulbocodium have more, up to a maximum of 60. Seeds take five to six weeks to mature. The seeds of sections Jonquilla and Bulbocodium are wedge-shaped and matte black, while those of other sections are ovate and glossy black. A gust of wind or contact with a passing animal is sufficient to disperse the mature seeds.
As with all Amarylidaceae genera, Narcissus contains unique isoquinoline alkaloids. The first alkaloid to be identified was lycorine, from N. pseudonarcissus in 1877. These are considered a protective adaptation, and are utilised in the classification of species. Nearly 100 alkaloids have been identified in the genus, about a third of all known Amaryllidaceae alkaloids, although not all species have been tested. Of the nine alkaloid ring types identified in the family, Narcissus species most commonly demonstrate the presence of alkaloids from within the Lycorine (lycorine, galanthine, pluviine) and Homolycorine (homolycorine, lycorenine) groups. Hemanthamine, Tazettine, Narciclasine, Montanine and Galanthamine alkaloids are also represented. The alkaloid profile of any plant varies with time, location, and developmental stage. Narcissus also contain fructans and low molecular weight glucomannan in the leaves and plant stems.
Genus valde intricatum et numerosissimis dubiis oppressum
Schultes & Schultes fil., Syst. Veg. 1829
The plants we know as the genus Narcissus were known to the ancients, appearing in Graeco-Roman literature, including Theophrastus who described νάρκισσος, probably referring to N. poeticus, although the exact nature of the species mentioned in classical literature cannot be accurately established. Other authors include Pliny the Elder as the Latin form narcissus and Dioscorides. These early writers were as much interested in the plant's possible medicinal properties as they were its botanical features and their accounts remained influential till at least the Renaisance (see also Antiquity). Mediaeval and Renaissance writers include Albert Magnus and William Turner, but it remained to Linnaeus in 1753 to formally describe and name Narcissus as a genus in his Species Plantarum, at which time there were six known species.
De Jussieu (1789) grouped Narcissus into a 'family' which he called Narcissi. This was renamed Amaryllideae by Jaume St.-Hilaire in 1805, corresponding to the modern Amaryllidaceae, although for a while it was considered part of Liliaceae (as in the illustration seen here of Narcissus candidissimus), prior to that family being divided into the two separate families.
Various authors have adopted either narrow (e.g. Haworth, Salisbury) or wide (e.g.Herbert, Spach ) interpretations of the genus. The narrow view treated many of the species as separate genera. Over time the wider view prevailed with a major monograph on the genus being published by Baker (1875). One of the more controversial genera was Tapeinanthus, but today it is nearly always included in Narcissus.
The eventual position of Narcissus within the Amaryllidaceae family only became settled in this century with the advent of phylogenetic analysis and the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group system. The genus Narcissus belongs to the Narcisseae tribe, one of 13 within the Amaryllidoideae subfamily of the Amaryllidaceae. It is one of two sister clades corresponding to genera in the Narcisseae, being distinguished from Sternbergia by the presence of a paraperigonium, and is monophyletic.
The infrageneric phylogeny of Narcissus still remains relatively unsettled. The taxonomy has proved very complex and difficult to resolve, due to the diversity of the wild species, the ease with which natural hybridization occurs, and extensive cultivation and breeding accompanied by escape and naturalisation. Consequently, the number of accepted species has varied widely.
De Candolle, in the first systematic taxonomy of Narcissus, arranged the species into named groups, and those names have largely endured for the various subdivisions since and bear his name. The situation was further confused by including many unknown or garden varieties, and it was not till the work of Baker that the wild species were all grouped as sections under one genus, Narcissus.
A common classification system has been that of Fernandes  based on cytology, as modified by Blanchard (1990) and Mathew (2002), another is that of Meyer (1966). Fernandes proposed two subgenera based on basal chromosome number, and then subdivided these into ten sections as did Blanchard.
Other authors (e.g. Webb) prioritised morphology over genetics, abandoning subgenera, although Blanchard's system has been one of the most influential. While infrageneric groupings within Narcissus have been relatively constant, their status (genera, subgenera, sections, subsections, series, species) has not. The most cited system is that of the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) which simply lists ten sections. Three of these are monotypic (contain only one species), while two others contain only two species. Most species are placed in section Pseudonarcissus. Many of these subdivisions correspond roughly to the popular names for daffodil types, e.g. Trumpet Daffodils, Tazettas, Pheasant's Eyes, Hoop Petticoats, Jonquils.
The most hierarchical system is that of Mathew, illustrated here -
|Narcissus Pax||Narcissus L.||
N. poeticus L.
syn. Ajax Spach
N. pseudonarcissus L.
|Ganymedes Salisbury ex Schultes and Schultes fil.||
N. triandrus L.
|Jonquillae De Candolle||Jonquillae DC||
N. jonquilla L.
|Apodanthi (A. Fernandes) D. A. Webb||
|Chloranthi D. A. Webb||
|Tapeinanthus (Herbert) Traub||
A. Barra and G. López
syn. Tazettae De Candolle
N. tazetta L.
(A. Fernandes) F.J Fernándes-Casas
|Link to image
N. serotinus L.
|Aurelia (J. Gay) Baker||
|Corbularia (Salisb.) Pax
syn. Bulbocodium De Candolle
N. bulbocodium L.
The phylogenetic analysis of Graham and Barrett (2004) supported the infrageneric division of Narcissus into two clades corresponding to Fernandes' subgenera, but did not support monophyly of all sections. A later extended analysis by Rønsted et. al. (2008) with additional taxa confirmed this pattern.
A large molecular analysis by Zonneveld (2008) sought to reduce some of the paraphyly identified by Graham and Barrett. This led to a revision of the sectional structure. While Graham and Barrett (2004) had determined that subgenus Hermione was monophyletic, Santos-Gally et. al. (2011) did not. If two species excluded in the former study are removed from the analysis, the studies are in agreement, the species in question instead forming a clade with subgenus Narcissus. Some so-called nothosections have been proposed, to accommodate natural ('ancient') hybrids (nothospecies).
Estimates of the number of species in Narcissus have varied widely, from anywhere between 16 and 160, even in the modern era. Linnaeus originally included six species in 1753, by 1784 there were fourteen and by 1819 sixteen.
Much of the variation lies in the definition of species. Thus, a very wide view of each species, such as Webb's results in few species, while a very narrow view such as that of Fernandes results in a larger number. Another factor is the status of hybrids, with a distinction between 'ancient hybrids' occurring over a relatively large area and 'recent hybrids' with a more restricted range.
Fernandes (1951) originally accepted 22 species, Webb (1980) 27. By 1968, Fernandes had 63 species, Blanchard (1990) 65 species, and Erhardt (1993) 66. In 2006 the International Daffodil Register and Classified List listed 87 species, while Zonneveld's genetic study (2008) resulted in only 36.
As of September 2014[update], the World Checklist of Selected Plant Families accepts 52 species, along with at least 60 hybrids. Another source is the Royal Horticultural Society's Botanical Classification.
Within the Narcisseae, Narcissus (western Mediterranean) diverged from Sternbergia (Eurasia) some time in the Late Oligocene to Early Miocene eras, around 29.3–18.1 Ma. Later the genus divided into the two subgenera (Hermione and Narcissus) between 27.4–16.1 Ma. The divisions between the sections of Hermione then took place during the Miocene period 19.9–7.8 Ma. Narcissus appears to have arisen in the area of the Iberian peninsula, southern France and north-western Italy. Subgenus Hermione in turn arose in the southwestern mediterranean and north west Africa.
The derivation of the Latin narcissus (Greek: νάρκισσος) is unknown, but may be connected with hell. It is frequently linked to the myth of Narcissus who became so obsessed with his own reflection in water that he drowned and the narcissus plant sprang from where he died. There is no evidence for the flower being named for the youth. Narcissus poeticus which grows in Greece, has a fragrance that has been described as intoxicating. Pliny wrote that the plant was named for its fragrance (ναρκάω narkao, "I grow numb" ) not the youth. Furthermore, there were accounts of narcissi growing long before the story of Narcissus appeared (see Greek culture).[notes 2] It has also been suggested that daffodils bending over streams represent the youth admiring his reflection. Linnaeus used the Latin name 'Narcissus' for the plant but was precded by others such as Matthias de l'Obel (1591) and Clusius (1576).
The plural form of the common name "narcissus" has caused some confusion. Dictionaries list "narcissi", "narcissuses" and "narcissus" However, texts on usage such as Garner and Fowler state that "narcissi" is the preferred form. The common name narcissus should not be capitalised.
The name "daffodil" is derived from "affodell", a variant of asphodel. The narcissus is frequently, referred to as the asphodel, (see Antiquity). Asphodel in turn appears to come from the Greek "asphodelos" (Greek: ἀσφόδελος). The reason for the introduction of the initial "d" is not known. From at least the 16th century, "Daffadown Dilly", "daffadown dilly", and "daffydowndilly" have appeared as playful synonyms of the name.
Distribution and habitat
Although the Amaryllidaceae family are predominantly tropical or subtropical as a whole, Narcissi occur primarily in Southwestern Europe and the Mediterranean region, with a centre of diversity in the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal). A few species extend the range into southern France and Italy, and even few occur in the Balkans (N. poeticus, N. serotinus, N. tazetta) and the Eastern Mediterranean (N. serotinus) including Israel (N. tazetta). The occurrence of N. tazetta in western and central Asia, China and Japan are considered introductions, albeit ancient (see Eastern cultures). While the exact northern limit of the range is unknown, the occurrence of wild N. pseudonarcissus in Great Britain is similarly considered an ancient introduction.
N. elegans occurs on the North West African Coast (Morocco and Libya), as well as the coastline of Corsica, Sardinia and Italy, and N. bulbocodium between Tangier and Algiers and Tangier to Marrakech, but also on the Iberian Peninsula. N. serotinus is found along the entire Mediterranean coast. N. tazetta occurs as far east as Iran and Kashmir. Since this is one of the oldest species found in cultivation, it is likely to have been introduced into Kashmir. N. poeticus and N. pseudonarcissus have the largest distribution ranges. N. poeticus ranges from the Pyrenees along the Romanian Carpathians to the Black Sea and along the Dalmatian coast to Greece. N. pseudonarcissus ranges from the Iberian Peninsula, via the Vosges Mountains to northern France and Belgium, and the United Kingdom where there are still wild stocks in Southern Scotland. The only occurrence in Luxembourg is located near Lellingen, in the municipality of Kiischpelt. In Germany it is found mainly in the nature reserve at Perlenbach-Fuhrtsbachtal and the Eifel National Park, where in the spring at Monschau the meadows are teeming with yellow blooms. One of the most easterly occurrences can be found at Misselberg near Nassau on the Lahn.
However unlike the above examples most species have very restricted endemic ranges which may overlap resulting in natural hybrids. For instance in the vicinity of the Portuguese city of Porto where both N. pseudonarcissus and N. triandrus occur there are found various intersections of the two species while in a small area along part of the Portuguese Montego river are found intersectional hybrids between other hand, one finds intersections between N. scaberulus and N. triandrus.
The biogeography demonstrates a phylogenetic association, for instance subgenus Hermione having a lowland distribution, but subgenus Narcissus section Apodanthi being montane and restricted to Morocco, Spain and Portugal. The remaining sections within subgenus Narcissus include both lowland and mountain habitats. Section Pseudonarcissus, although widely naturalised is endemic to the Baetic Ranges of the south eastern Iberian peninsula.
Their native habitats are very varied, with different elevations, bioclimatic areas and substrates, being found predominantly in open spaces ranging from low marshes to rocky hillsides and montane pastures, and including grassland, scrub, woods, river banks and rocky crevices. Although requirements vary, overall there is a preference for acidic soils, although some species will grow in limestone. Narcissus scaberulus will grow on granite soils where it is moist in the growing season but dry in the summer, while Narcissus dubius thrives best in regions with hot and dry summers. The Pseudonarcissus group in their natural habitat prefer humid situations such as stream margins, springs, wet pastures, clearings of forests or shrublands with humid soils, and moist hillsides. These habitats tend to be discontinuous in the Mediterranean mountains, producing discrete isolated populations. In Germany, which is poor in lime, Narcissus pseudonarcissus grows in small groups on open mountain meadows or in mixed forests of fir, beech, oak, alder, ash and birch trees with well-drained soil.
Narcissus are long-lived perennial geophytes with winter-growing and summer-dormant bulbs. While most species flower in late winter to spring, five species are autumn flowering (N. broussonetii, N. cavanillesii, N. elegans, N. serotinus, N. viridiflorus). Plants may spread clonally through the production of daughter bulbs and division producing clumps. Narcissus species hybridise readily, although the fertility of the offspring will depend on the parental relationship.
The flowers are insect pollinated, the major pollinators being bees, butterflies, flies, and hawkmoths, while the night flowering N. viridiflorus is pollinated by crepuscular moths. Pollination mechanism fall into three groups corresponding to floral morphology (see Description - Flowers).
- 'Daffodil' form. Pollinated by bees seeking pollen from anthers within the corona. The broad perianth allows bees (Bombus, Anthophora, Andrena) to completely enter the flower in their search for nectar and /or pollen. In this type the stigma lies in the mouth of the corona, extending beyond the six anthers, whose single whorl lies well within the corona. The bees come into contact with the stigma before their legs, thorax and abdomen contact the anthers, and this approach herkogamy causes cross pollination.
- 'Paperwhite' form. These are adapted to long-tongued Lepidoptera, particularly sphingid moths such as Macroglossum, Pieridae and Nymphalidae but also some long-tongued bees, and flies, all of which are primarily seeking nectar. The narrow tube admits only the insect's proboscis, while the short corona serves as a funnel guiding the tip of the proboscis into the mouth of the perianth tube. The stigma is placed either in the mouth of the tube, just above two whorls of three anthers, or hidden well below the anthers. The pollinators then carry pollen on their probosci or faces. The long tongued bees cannot reach the nectar at the tube base and so collect just pollen.
- 'Triandrus' form. Pollinated by long-tongued solitary bees (Anthophora, Bombus) which forage for both pollen and nectar. The large corona allows the bees to crawl into the perianth but then the narrow tube prevents further progres, causing them to probe deeply for nectar. The pendant flowers prevent pollination by lepidoptera. In N. albimarginatus there may be either a long stigma with short and mid length anthers or a short stigma and long anthers (dimorphism). In N. triandrus there are three patterns of sexual organs (trimophism) but all have long upper anthers but vary in stigma position and the length of the lower anthers.
Allogamy (outcrossing) on the whole is enforced through a late-acting (ovarian) self-incompatibility system, but some species such as N. dubius and N. longispathus are self-compatible producing mixtures of selfed and outcrossed seeds.
Pests and diseases
Aphids such as Macrosiphum euphorbiae can transmit viral diseases which affect the colour and shape of the leaves. These include the Narcissus common latent virus (Carlavirus), Narcissus degeneration virus, Narcissus late season yellow virus, Narcissus latent virus, Narcissus mosaic virus (Potexvirus), Narcissus symptomless virus, Narcissus yellow stripe virus (Potyvirus) and Raspberry ringspot virus. These are primarily diseases of commercial nurseries. The growth inhibition caused by viral infection can cause substantial economic damage.
More problematic for non-commercial plants is the fungus Fusarium bubigenum, which causes rotting of the bulbs and yellowing of the leaves. Since the fungus can remain in the soil for many years it is necessary to remove infected plants immediately, and to avoid planting further narcissi at that spot for a further five years. Not all species and cultivars are equally susceptible. Relatively resistant forms include N. triandrus, N. tazetta and N. jonquilla. Another fungus which attacks the bulbs is Botrytis narcissicola, particularly if improperly stored. Copper sulfate is used to combat the disease, and infected bulbs are burned. Other fungi affect the remainder of the plant. Sclerotinia polyblastis causes brown spots on the flower buds and stems, especially in damp weather and is a threat to the cut flower industry. Ramularia vallisumbrosae is a leaf spot virus found in warmer climates, causing narcissus white mould disease. Another leaf virus is Stagonospora curtisii, narcissus leaf scorch, now more properly called Stagonosporopsis curtisii.
Three species of fly have larvae that attack Narcissus plants, narcissus bulb fly Merodon equestris, and two species of hoverflies, the lesser bulb flies Eumerus tuberculatus and Eumerus strigatus. The flies lay their eggs at the end of June in the ground around the narcissi, a single female fly being able to lay up to fifty eggs. The hatching larvae then burrow through the soil towards the bulbs and consume their interiors. They then overwinter in the empty bulb shell, emerging in April to pupate in the soil, from which the adult fly emerges in May.
mites infest mainly stored bulbs and multiply particularly at high ambient temperature, but do not attack planted bulbs. These are, however, susceptible to nematodes such as Ditylenchus dipsaci, which cause the leaves to turn yellow and become misshapen. Infested bulbs have to be destroyed; where infestation is heavy avoiding planting further narcissi for another five years. Snails also cause damage to growth.
Many of the smallest species have become extinct, requiring vigilance in the conservation of the wild species. Narcissi are increasingly under threat by urban development and tourism. N. cyclamineus has been considered to be either extinct or exceedingly rare but is not currently considered endangered, and is protected. The IUCN Red List describes five species as 'Endangered' (Narcissus alcaracensis, Narcissus bugei, Narcissus longispathus, Narcissus nevadensis, Narcissus radinganorum).
In response a number of species have been granted protected species status and protected areas (meadows) have been established such as the Negraşi Daffodil Meadow in Romania, or Kempley Daffodil Meadow in the UK. These areas often host daffodil festivals in the spring.
Early accounts of narcissi referred to wild populations. They have been cultivated from at least as early as the sixteenth century in the Netherlands, when large numbers of bulbs where imported from the field, particularly Narcissus hispanicus which soon became nearly extinct in its native habitat of France and Spain, though still found in the southern part of that country. Cultivation is also documented in Britain at this time. This was a period when the development of exotic formal gardens and parks was becoming popular, particularly in what is known as the 'Oriental Period' (1560 - 1620). In his Hortus Medicus (1588), the first catalogue of a German garden's plants, Joachim Camerarius the Younger states that nine different types of daffodils were represented in his garden in Nuremberg. After his death in 1598, his plants were moved by Basilius Besler to the gardens they had designed at Willibaldsburg, the Bishop's palace at Eichstätt, Upper Bavaria. That garden is described in Besler's Hortus Eystettensis (1613) by which time there were 43 different types present. While Shakespeare's daffodil is the wild or true English daffodil (N. pseudonarcissus), many other species were introduced, some of which escaped and naturalised. Gerard described twenty four species in London gardens (1578).
Although not achieving the sensationalism of tulips, daffodils and narcissi have been much celebrated in art and literature (see The Arts). The most popular narcissi were large trumpet daffodils, N. poeticus and N. bulbocodium, and Istanbul became important in the shipping of bulbs to western Europe. By the early baroque period both tulips and narcissi were an important component of the spring garden. By 1739 a Dutch nursery catalogue listed 50 different varieties. A catalog of a Dutch nursery from 1739 already counted on 50 varieties. In 1757 Hill gave an account of the history and cultivation of the daffodil in his edited version of the works of Thomas Hale, writing "The garden does not afford, in its Kind, a prettier plant than this; nor do we know one that has been so early, or so honorably mention'd by all Kinds of Writers" (see illustration). Interest grew further when varieties that could be grown indoors became available, primarily the bunch flowered (multiple flower heads) N. tazetta. Narcissi became an important floricultural crop in Western Europe in the late nineteenth century and by the beginning of the twentieth century 50 million bulbs of N. Tazetta 'Paperwhite' were being exported annually from the Netherlands to the United States. With the production of triploids such as 'Golden Spur', in the late nineteenth century, and in the beginning of the twentieth century, tetraploids like 'King Alfred' (1899), the industry was well established, with trumpet daffodils dominating the market. The Royal Horticultural Society has been an important factor in promoting narcissi, holding the first Daffodil Conference in 1884, while the Daffodil Society, the first organisation dedicated to the cultivation of narcissi was founded in Birmingham in 1898. Other countries followed and the American Daffodil Society which was founded in 1954 publishes The Daffodil Journal quarterly, a leading trade publication.
Narcissi are now popular as ornamental plants for gardens, parks and as cut flowers, providing colour from the end of winter to the beginning of summer in temperate regions. They are one of the most popular spring flowers and one of the major ornamental spring flowering bulb crops, being produced both for their bulbs and cut flowers, though cultivation of private and public spaces is greater than the area of commercial production. Over a century of breeding has resulted in thousands of varieties and cultivars being available from both general and specialist suppliers. They are normally sold as dry bulbs to be planted in late Summer and Autumn (Fall). They are one of the most economically important ornamental plants. Plant breeders have developed some daffodils with double, triple, or ambiguously multiple rows and layers of segments. Much of the breeding programs have concentrated on the corona (trumpet or cup), in terms of its length, shape, and colour, and the surrounding perianth or even as in varieties derived from N. poeticus a very reduced form.
Narcissi as garden plants
While some wild narcissi are specific in terms of their ecological requirements, most garden varieties are relatively tolerant of soil conditions, however very wet soils and clay soils may benefit from the addition of sand to improve drainage. The optimum soil is a neutral pH of 7.0.
Bulbs offered for sale are referred to as either 'round' or 'double nose'. Round bulbs are circular in cross section and produce a single flower stem, while Double Nose bulbs have more than one bulb stem attached at the base and produce two or more flower stems, but bulbs with more than two stems are unusual. Planted narcissi bulbs produce daughter bulbs in the axil of the bulb scales, leading to the dying off of the exterior scales. To prevent planted bulbs forming more and more small bulbs, they can be dug up every 5 – 7 years, and the daughters separated and replanted separately, provided that a piece of the basal plate, where the rootlets are formed, is preserved.
Narcissi are well suited for planting under small thickets of trees, where they can be grouped as 6 - 12 bulbs. They also grow well in perennial borders, especially in association with day lilies which begin to form their leaves as the narcissi flowers are fading. A number of wild species and hybrids such as 'Dutch Master', 'Golden Harvest', 'Carlton', 'Kings Court' and 'Yellow Sun' naturalise well in lawns, but it is important not to mow the lawn till the leaves start to fade, since they are essential for nourishing the bulb for the next flowering season. Blue Scilla and Muscari which also naturalise well in lawns and flower at the same time as narcissus, make an attractive contrast to the yellow flowers of the latter. Unlike Tulips, narcissi bulbs are not attractive to rodents and are sometimes planted near tree roots in orchards to protect them.
The commonest form of commercial propagation is by twin-scaling, in which the bulbs are cut into many small pieces in which two scales are still connected by a small fragment of the basal plate. The fragments are disinfected and placed on nutrient media. About 25 - 35 new plants can be produced from a single bulb after four years.
For commercial use, varieties with a minimum stem length of 30 cm are sought, making them ideal for cut flowers. Florists require blooms that only open when they reach the retail outlet. For garden plants the objectives are to continually expand the colour palette and to produce hardy forms, and there is a particular demand for miniature varieties.
For horticultural purposes, all Narcissus cultivars are split into 13 divisions as first described by Kington (1998), for the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), based partly upon flower form (shape and length of corona), number of flowers per stem, flowering period and partly upon genetic background. The classification is a useful tool for planning planting. Most commercially available narcissi come from Divisions 1 (Trumpet), 2 (Large cupped) and 8 (Tazetta). Division 13 which includes the wild daffodil is the exception to this scheme.
Growers register new daffodil cultivars by name and color with the Royal Horticultural Society, which is the international registration authority for the genus. Their International Daffodil Register is regularly updated with supplements available online and is searchable. The most recent supplemt (2014) is the sixth (the fifth was published in 2012). More than 27,000 names were registered as of 2008, and the number has continued to grow. Registered daffodils are given a division number and colour code such as 5 W-W ('Thalia'). In horticultural usage it is common to also find an unofficial Division 14: Miniatures, which although drawn from the other 13 divisions, have their miniature size in common. Over 140 varieties have gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit (See List of Award of Garden Merit narcissus).
Daffodils may be self-colored—i.e., both perianth and corona identical in color and shade—or the colors between the perianth and corona may differ widely. Some perianths and some coronas may also contain more than one color or shade. Prevalent colors are all shades and tones of yellow, white, orange, pink, red and green. Pinks vary from apricot to rose in shades from pale to deep, and some more recent cultivars have hints of lavender or lilac. Reds vary from orange-red to salmon red to near scarlet. Pink, red, orange and green tones are mainly confined to the corona. However, breeders are currently working against the genus' natural pigmentation and genetic barriers to create cultivars in which pink, rose, red, orange and green tones suffuse or "bleed" from the more highly colored coronas onto the perianth segments of white or yellow. There is an increasing number of commercially available varieties which display this enhanced coloration.
The color classification lists the perianth color and then the corona color. In the case of multiple colors, the perianth colors are assigned from the outer edge of the perianth segments inward to their juncture with the base of the corona, while the corona colors are assigned from the base of the corona outward to the rim. Thus, 'Accent', a Large Cup (Division 2) Daffodil possessing a white perianth and a pink corona, is officially classifies as 2 W-P, 'Geranium', Tazetta (Division 8) with a white perianth and orange corona is 8 W-O and 'Actaea', Poeticus (Division 9), with white corona and multicoloured corona is 9 W-GYR.
All Narcissus species contain the alkaloid poison lycorine, mostly in the bulb but also in the leaves. Members of the monocot subfamily Amaryllidoideae present a unique type of alkaloids, the norbelladine alkaloids, which are 4-methylcatechol derivatives combined with tyrosine. They are responsible for the poisonous properties of a number of the species. Over 200 different chemical structures of these compounds are known, of which 79 or more are known from Narcissus alone.
The toxic effects of ingesting Narcissus products for both man and animals (such as cattle, goats, pigs and cats) have long been recognised and they have been used in suicide attempts. Ingestion of N. pseudonarcissus or N. jonquilla is followed by salivation, acute abdominal pains, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, then neurological and cardiac events, including trembling, convulsions, and paralysis. Death may result if large quantities are consumed. The toxicity of Narcissus varies with species, N. poeticus being more toxic than N. pseudonarcissus, for instance. Nor is the distribution of toxins even within the plant, for instance there is a five times higher concentration of alkaloid in the stem of N. papyraceous than in the bulb, making it dangerous to herbivores more likely to consume the stem than the bulb, and is part of the plant's defence mechanisms.
Not all Narcissus species are equally dangerous. The bulbs of N. poeticus, for example, are more dangerous than those of N. pseudonarcissus. Neither do all plant tissues have the same concentration or profile of alkaloids. Thus, the alkaloid content of N. papyraceus is five times higher in the aerial part than in the bulbs, being toxic for herbivorous mammals. The distribution of the alkaloids in the plant tissues can be related with the plant's defense mechanism such as protection from parasites. The bulbs can also be toxic to other nearby plants, including roses, rice, and cabbages, inhibiting growth. For instance placing cut flowers in a vase alongside other flowers shortens the life of the latter.
Many cases of poisoning or death have occurred when narcissi bulbs have been mistaken for leeks or onions and cooked and eaten. Recovery is usually complete in a few hours without any specific intervention. In more severe cases involving ingestion of large quantities of bulbs activated charcoal, salts, and laxatives may be required, and for severe symptoms intravenous atropine and emetics or stomach pumping may be indicated. However, ingestion of large quantities accidentally is unusual because of a strong unpleasant taste. When narcissi were compared with a number of other plants not normally consumed by animals, narcissi were the most repellant, specifically N. pseudonarcissus Consequently narcissus alkaloids have been used as repellents and may also discourage fungi, molds, and bacteria.
One of the most common dermatitis problems for flower pickers, packers, florists and gardeners, "daffodil itch", involves dryness, fissures, scaling, and erythema in the hands, often accompanied by subungual hyperkeratosis (thickening of the skin beneath the nails). It is blamed on exposure to calcium oxalate, chelidonic acid or alkaloids such as lycorine in the sap, either due to a direct irritant effect or an allergic reaction. It has long been recognised that some cultivars provoke dermatitis more readily than others. N. pseudonarcissus and the cultivars 'Actaea', 'Camparelle', 'Gloriosa', 'Grande Monarque', 'Ornatus', 'Princeps' and 'Scilly White' are known to do so.
If bulb extracts come into contact with wounds, both central nervous system and cardiac symptoms may result. The scent can also cause toxic reactions such as headaches and vomiting from N. bulbocodium.
Despite the lethal potential of Narcissus alkaloids, they have been used for centuries as traditional medicines for a variety of complaints, including cancer. N. poeticus is described in the Bible in the treatment of cancer. In the Classical Greek world Hippocrates (ca. B.C. 460–370) recommended a pessary prepared from narcissus oil for uterine tumors, a practice continued by Pedanius Dioscorides (ca. A.D. 40–90) and Soranus of Ephesus (A.D. 98–138) in the first and second centuries A.D., while the Roman Pliny the Elder (A.D. 23–79), advocated topical use. The bulbs of N. poeticus contain the antineoplastic agent narciclasine. This usage is also found in later Arabian, North African, Central American and Chinese medicine during the Middle Ages. In China N. tazetta var. chinensis was grown as an ornamental plant but the bulbs were applied topically to tumors in traditional folk medicine. These bulbs contain pretazettine, an active antitumor compound.
Narcissus products have received a variety of other uses. The Roman physician Aulus Cornelius Celsus listed narcissus root in De Medicina among medical herbs, described as emollient, erodent, and "powerful to disperse whatever has collected in any part of the body". N. tazetta bulbs were used in Turkey as a remedy for abscesses in the belief they were antiphlogistic and analgesic. Other uses include the application to wounds, strains, painful joints and various local ailments as an ointment called ‘Narcissimum’. Powdered flowers have also been used medically, as an emetic, a decongestant and for the relief of dysentery, in the form of a syrup or infusion. The French used the flowers as an antispasmodic, the Arabs the oil for baldness and also an aphrodisiac. In the eighteenth century the Irish herbal of John K’Eogh recommended pounding the roots in honey for use on burns, bruises, dislocations and freckles, and for drawing out thorns and splinters. N. tazetta bulbs have also been used for contraception, while the flowers have been recommended for hysteria and epilepsy. A homeopathic medicine made from bulbs was prescribed for bronchitis and whooping cough. In the traditional Japanese medicine of kampo, wounds were treated with narcissus root and wheat flour paste; the plant, however, does not appear in the modern kampo herb list.
There is also a long history of the use of Narcissus as a stimulant and to induce trance like states and hallucinations. Sophocles referred to the narcissus as the ‘Chaplet of the infernal Gods’, a statement frequently wrongly attributd to Socrates (see Antiquity).
Extracts of Narcissus have demonstrated a number of potentially useful biological properties including antiviral, prophage induction, antibacterial, antifungal, antimalarial, insecticidal, cytotoxic, antitumor, antimitotic, antiplatelet, hypotensive, emetic, acetylcholine esterase inhibitory, antifertility, antinociceptive, chronotropic, pheromone, plant growth inhibitor, and allelopathic. An ethanol extract of Narcissus bulbs was found effective in one mouse model of nociception, para-benzoquinone induced abdominal constriction, but not in another, the hot plate test. Most of these properties are due to alkaloids, but some are also due to mannosa-binding lectins. The most-studied alkaloids in this group are galanthamine, lycorine, narciclasine, and pretazettine.
It is likely that the traditional use of narcissi for the treatment of cancer was due to the presence of isocarbostyril constituents such as narciclasine, pancratistatin and their congeners. N. poeticus contains about 0.12g of narciclasine per kg of fresh bulbs.
Acetylcholine esterase inhibition has attracted the most interest as a possible therapeutic intervention, with activity varying by a thousandfold between species, and the greatest activity seen in those that contain galanthamine or epinorgalanthamine.
Of all the alkaloids, only galanthamine has made it to therapeutic use in man, as the drug galantamine for Alzheimer's disease. Galanthamine is an acetylcholine esterase inhibitor which crosses the blood brain barrier and is active within the central nervous system. Daffodils are grown commercially near Brecon in Powys, Wales, to produce galantamine, a drug used to combat Alzheimer's disease.
Throughout history the scent of narcissi has been an important ingredient of perfumes, a quality that comes from essential oils rather than alkaloids. Narcissi are also an important horticultural crop, and source of cut flowers (floriculture).
The Netherlands, which is the most important source of flower bulbs worldwide is also the centre of narcissus production. Of 16,700 hectares under cultivation for flower bulbs, narcissi account for about 1,800 hectares. In the 1990s narcissus bulb production was at 260 million, sixth in size after tulips, gladioli, irises, crocuses and lilies. About two thirds of the area under cultivation is dedicated to about 20 of the most popular varieties, particularly 'Carlton' (yellow) and 'Ice Follies' (white), both of which are large-cupped narcissi (Division Two). These two varieties have a long history of cultivation, together with 'Dutch Master' and 'Golden Harvest'. 'Carlton' and 'Golden Harvest' were introduced in 1927, and 'Ice Follies' in 1953. 'Carlton' is the commonest cultivar with over 9000 million bulbs (350 000 tons), probably the largest individual plant production in the world. The other major area of production is the United Kingdom.
Bulbs are harvested for market in the summer, sorted, stored for 2 – 3 weeks, and then disinfected by a hot (43.5 °C) bath. This eliminates infestations by narcissus fly and nematodes. The bulbs are then dried at a high temperature, and then stored at 15.5 °C. Traditionally, sales took place in the daffodil fields prior to harvesting the bulbs, but today sales are handled by Marketing Boards although still before harvesting. In the Netherlands there are special exhibition gardens for major buyers to view flowers and order bulbs, some larger ones may have more than a thousand narcissus varieties on display. While individuals can visit these gardens they cannot buy bulbs at retail, which are only available at wholesale, usually at a minimum of several hundredweight. The most famous display is at Keukenhof, although only about 100 narcissus varieties are on display there.
There is also a market for both forced blooms in pots and cut flowers through the winter from Christmas to Easter, the long season requiring special preparation by growers. To bloom in December, bulbs are harvested in June, dried, stored for four days at 34 °C, two weeks at 30 and two weeks at 17 and then placed in cold storage at 9 degrees. The bulbs are then planted in light compost in crates in a greenhouse and the blooms appear in 19 – 30 days. For later blooming, the higher temperatures are omitted, being stored a 17 degrees after harvesting and placed in cold storage in September. The bulbs can then be planted in cold frames, and then forced in a greenhouse according to requirements.
The daffodil is the national flower of Wales, where it is traditional to wear a daffodil or a leek on Saint David's Day (March 1). In Welsh the daffodil is known as "Peter's Leek", cenhinen Bedr or cenin Pedr). The narcissus is also a national flower symbolising the new year or Newroz in the Kurdish culture.
The narcissus is perceived in the West as a symbol of vanity, in the East as a symbol of wealth and good fortune (see Eastern cultures). In classical Persian literature, the narcissus is a symbol of beautiful eyes, together with other flowers that equal a beautiful face with a spring garden, such as roses for cheeks and violets for shining dark hair. In some countries the daffodil is associated with spring festivals such as Lent and its successor Easter. The German for daffodil is Osterglocke, that is "Easter bell." In the United Kingdom, particularly in ecclesiastical circles, the daffodil is sometimes variously referred to as the Lentern, Lenten or Lent lily. Tradition has it that the daffodil opens on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, and dies at Easter which marks the end of Lent.
Although prized as an ornamental flower, some people consider narcissi unlucky, because they hang their heads implying misfortune, and hence refuse to have them in the house. White narcissi are especially associated with death, especially the pure white N triandrus 'Thalia', and hence are considered grave flowers. Indeed, in Ancient Greece narcissi were planted near tombs. Robert Herrick, describes them as portents of death, an association which also appears in the myth of Persephone and the underworld (see The Arts, below).
Narcissi have been used decoratively for a long time, a wreath of white-flowered N. tazetta having been found in an ancient Egyptian grave, and in frescoes on the excavated walls of Pompeii. It is thought to have been mentioned in the Bible, for instance in the Book of Isaiah. The rose mentioned here being the original translation into English from the Biblical Hebrew word chabatstsileth (Hebrew: חבצלת). This so-called "Rose of Sharon" being actually a bulbous plant, probably N. tazetta which grows in Israel on the Plain of Sharon, where it is a protected plant. They make a frequent appearance in classical literature.
The narcissus has also frequently appeared in literature and the visual arts, and forms part of two important Graeco-Roman myths, that of the youth Narcissus (Greek: Νάρκισσος) who was turned into the flower of that name, and of the Goddess Kore, or Persephone (Greek: Περσεφόνη; Latin: Proserpina) daughter of the goddess Demeter (Greek: Δημήτηρ), snatched into the Underworld by the god Hades (Greek: Ἅιδης) while picking narcissi. Hence, the narcissus is listed as having been sacred to both Hades and Persephone, and to grow along the banks of the river Styx (Στύξ) in the underworld.
The Greek poet Stasinos (Greek: Στασῖνος, flourished ca. 800 – 900 BC) mentioned them in the Cypria (Κυπρία) in which he sings of the flowers of the island of Cyprus "She clothed herself with garments which the Graces and Hours had made for her and dyed in flowers of spring -- such flowers as the Seasons wear -- in crocus and hyacinth and flourishing violet and the rose's lovely bloom, so sweet and delicious, and heavenly buds, the flowers of the narcissus and lily. In such perfumed garments is Aphrodite clothed at all seasons. " (ll. 1 – 7). The legend of Persephone comes to us primarily in the anonymous Homeric Hymn (Seventh century BC) to Demeter (Εἲς Δημήτραν), which describes the narcissus as being grown as a lure to trap the young Persephone, the last flower she reached for l. 428 "νάρκισσόν θ᾽, ὃν ἔφυσ᾽ ὥς περ κρόκον εὐρεῖα χθών" (and the narcissus which the wide earth caused to grow yellow as a crocus).
Other Greek authors making reference to the narcissus include Sophocles (Greek: Σοφοκλῆς, c. 497 – 406 BC) and Plutarch (Greek: Πλούταρχος, c. 46 AD – 120 AD). Sophocles, in his Oedipus at Colonus (Οἰδίπους ἐπὶ Κολωνῷ) utilises narcissus in a highly symbolic manner, implying fertility, and allying it with the cults of Demeter and her daughter Kore (Persephone) (μεγάλαιν θεαίν, the Great Goddesses), but by extension through the Persephone association, a symbol of death. Jebb comments here that νάρκισσος is the flower of imminent death with its fragrance being νάρκη or narcotic, emphasised by its pale white colour. Just as Persephone reaching for the flower heralded her doom, the youth Narcissus gazing at his own reflection portended his death.
θάλλει δ ουρανίας υπ άχνας
ο καλλίβοτρυς κατ ημαρ αει
νάρκισσος, μεγάλαιν θεαίν
"And, fed on heavenly dew,
the narcissus blooms day by day with its fair clusters;
it is the ancient crown of the Great Goddesses."
Sophocles. Oedipus at Colonus, 681 - 684
Plutarch refers to this in his Symposiacs as follows, "and the daffodil, because it benumbs the nerves and causes a stupid narcotic heaviness in the limbs, and therefore Sophocles calls it the ancient garland flower of the great (that is, the earthy) gods." This reference to Sophocles' "crown of the great Goddesses", here is the source of the commonly quoted phrase in the English literature "Chaplet of the infernal Gods" incorrectly attributed to Socrates.
A passage by Moschus' (Greek: Μόσχος, fl. 100 BC) has been incorrectly attributed to Theocritus (Greek: Θεόκριτος, fl. c. 150 BC). Moschus describes fragrant narcissi (νάρκισσον ἐΰπνοον) in his Idylls (Εἰδύλλια), "Now the girls so soon as they were come to the flowering meadows took great delight in various sorts of flowers whereof one would pluck sweet breathed narcissus" (Europa and the Bull),[notes 3] and narcissi were said to have been part of Europa's floral headdress.
Another Greek writer, Homer (Greek: Ὅμηρος, ca. 7th century BC), in his Odyssey (Ὀδύσσεια), in several places (e.g. Od. 11:539; 24.14) described the underworld as having Elysian meadows (Ἠλύσιον πεδίον) carpeted with flowers, though using the term asphodel (ἀσφοδελὸν), hence Asphodel Meadows. This may have actually been narcissus, with its associations with the underworld, as described by Theophrastus (Greek: Θεόφραστος, and frequently used in later literature to refer to daffodils.[notes 4] A similar account is provided by Lucian (Greek: Λουκιανὸς, c. 125 – 180 AD) in his Necyomantia or Menippus (Μένιππος ἢ Νεκυομαντεία), describing asphodel in the underworld (Nec. 11:2; 21:10).
The myth of the youth Narcissus is also taken up by Pausanias (Greek: Παυσανίας, c. 110 – 180AD) in his Description of Greece (Ἑλλάδος περιήγησις). Pausanias, deferring to Pamphos, believed that the myth of Persephone long antedated that of Narcissus, and hence discounts the idea the flower was named after the youth.
νάρκισσον δὲ ἄνθος ἡ γῆ καὶ πρότερον ἔφυεν ἐμοὶ δοκεῖν, εἰ τοῖς Πάμφω τεκμαίρεσθαι χρή τι ἡμᾶς ἔπεσι: γεγονὼς γὰρ πολλοῖς πρότερον ἔτεσιν ἢ Νάρκισσος ὁ Θεσπιεὺς Κόρην τὴν Δήμητρός φησιν ἁρπασθῆναι παίζουσαν καὶ ἄνθη συλλέγουσαν, ἁρπασθῆναι δὲ οὐκ ἴοις ἀπατηθεῖσαν ἀλλὰ ναρκίσσοις.
"The flower narcissus grew, in my opinion, before this, if we are to judge by the verses of Pamphos. This poet was born many years before Narcissus the Thespian, and he says that the Maid, the daughter of Demeter, was carried off when she was playing and gathering flowers, and that the flowers by which she was deceived into being carried off were not violets, but the narcissus."
Pausanias. Description of Greece. 9 Boeotia. 31:9
Virgil (Publius Vergilius Maro, 70 BC – 19 AD), the first known Roman writer to refer to the narcissus, does so in several places, for instance twice in the Georgics, Book four, l. 122 "nec sera comantem Narcissum" (nor had I passed in silence the late-flowering narcissus) and l. 159 "pars intra septa domorum, Narcissi lacrymam" (some within the enclosure of their Hives, lay Narcissus' tears). Virgil refers to the cup shaped corona of the narcissus flower, allegedly containing the tears of the youth Narcissus. Milton makes a similar analogy in his Lycidas "And Daffodillies fill their Cups with Tears". Virgil also mentions narcissi three times in the Eclogues. In the second book l. 48 "Narcissum et florem jungit bene olentis anenthi" (joins the narcissus and flower of sweet-smelling anise), also the fifth book, l. 38 "pro purpureo narcisso" (in lieu of the empurpled narcissus). For the idea that narcissus could be purple, see also Dioscorides (επ ενίων δε πορφυροειδές) and Pliny (sunt et purpurea lilia). This was thought to be an allusion to the purple-rimmed corona of N. poeticus. Finally, in the eighth book of the Eclogues, Virgil writes, l. 53 "narcisso floreat alnus" (the alder with narcissus bloom).
Ovid (Publius Ovidius Naso, 43 BC – 17 AD) was also familiar with narcissi, in his recounting of the self-loving youth who is turned into the flower, in the third book of his Metamorphoses l. 509 "croceum pro corpore florem inveniunt, foliis medium cingemtibus albis" (They came upon a flower, instead of his body, with white petals surrounding a yellow heart) and also the fifth book of his Fasti l. 201 "Tu quoque nomen habes cultos, Narcisse, per hortos" (You too, Narcissus, were known among the gardens). This theme of metamorphosis was broader than just Narcissus, for instance see crocus (Krokus), laurel (Daphne) and hyacinth (Hyacinthus).
Although there is no clear evidence that the flower's name derives directly from the Greek myth, this link between the flower and the myth became firmly part of western culture.
"When a daffadill I see,
|Herrick, 'Divination by a Daffadill', Hesperides 1648.|
The narcissus or daffodil appears frequently in British poetry, and no flower has received more poetic description except the rose and the lily, with poems by authors including Shakespeare, Spenser, Addison and Thomson, together with Milton (see above), Keats and Shelley. Frequently the poems deal with self-love derived from Ovid's account. Shakespeare, who frequently uses flower imagery, refers to daffodils twice in his The Winter's Tale (e.g. "Daffodils, That come before the swallow dares, and take The winds of March with beauty"). Robert Herrick, in his Hesperides (1648) alludes to their association with death in a number of poems such as To Daffadils and Divination by a Daffadill. Amongst the English romantic movement writers none is better known than William Wordsworth's short 1804 poem I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud (The Daffodils) which has become linked in the popular mind with the daffodils that form its main image, here associated with vitality and pleasure. Wordsworth also included the daffodil in other poems, such as Foresight.
A. E. Housman, using the daffodil's more symbolic name of Lenten lily, wrote his Spring poem 'The Lent Lily' in his 1896 collection A Shropshire Lad, describing the traditional Easter death of the daffodil "And there's the Lenten lily, That has not long to stay, And dies on Easter day" (see Symbols). More recently Cecil Day-Lewis wrote "Now the full throated daffodils, Our trumpeters in gold, Call resurrection from the ground, And bid the year be bold" in his From Feathers to Iron (1931).
For the title of her 1939 novel about the disorientation of European nuns in India, later adapted into the 1947 award-winning British film Black Narcissus, British author Rumer Godden gave the plant name an unexpected twist, alluding both to narcissism and the effect of the perfume Narcisse Noir (Caron).
"Narzissus und die Tulipan(Daffodil and tulip are dressed more beautifully than Solomon's silk)
Die ziehen sich viel schöner an,
Als Salomonis Seide"
In the visual arts, narcissi are depicted in three different contexts, mythological (Narcissus, Persephone), floral art, or landscapes. The Narcissus story has been popular with painters and he is frequently depicted with flowers to indicate this association, for instance François Lemoyne, John William Waterhouse, Poussin's with flowers sprouting around the dying youth, or Salvador Dalí's painting Metamorphosis of Narcissus. The Persephone theme is typified by Waterhouse's Narcissus, the floral motif by van Scorel and the landscape by Van Gogh's Undergrowth. Narcissi first started to appear in western art in the late middle ages, in panel paintings, particularly those depicting crucifixion. For instance there is a crucifixion scene in the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum (Cologne), where daffodils symbolise not only death but also hope in the resurrection, and also because they are perennial and bloom at Easter. Another example from this period is the altar panel Noli me tangere by the Meister des Göttinger Barfüßeraltars (c. 1410) showing daffodils growing between the hand of Jesus and Mary Magdalene.
In Chinese culture interest in narcissi centres on Narcissus tazetta, which can be grown indoors. Narcissus tazetta subsp. chinensis is widely grown in China as an ornamental plant and often known outside China as Chinese sacred lilies (N. tazetta 'Chinese Sacred Lily') or joss flowers. Tazetta daffodils were probably introduced to China, where they became naturalised, by Arab traders travelling the Silk Road at some time prior to the beginning of the Song Dynasty (i.e. before 960), presumably for their claimed medicinal properties. Flowering in spring, they became associated with Chinese New Year, signifying good fortune, prosperity and good luck. If the narcissus blooms on Chinese New Year, it is said to bring extra wealth and good fortune throughout the year. Its sweet fragrance is also highly revered in Chinese culture. The flower has many names in Chinese culture, including water narcissus (since they can be grown in water) and seui sin faa (water immortal flowers). In ancient Chinese culture the narcissus is referred to as water goddess of the Xiang River (Chinese: 水仙, shuǐ xiān), or the "goddess standing above the waves" (lingbo xianzi), also translated as "fairy over rippling waters". There are many legends in Chinese culture associated with Narcissus, including one of a poor but good man who was brought great wealth by this flower.
As noted Chinese Garden Art expert Marianne Beuchert writes, in contrast to the West, narcissi have not played a significant part in Chinese Garden art, but have become a symbol of good luck, in which the multi-headed inflorescence of N. tazetta symbolised a hundred headed water spirit. However, Zhao Mengjian (趙孟堅, c. 1199 – 1267), in the Southern Song Dynasty was noted for his portrayal of narcissi, and Zhao's love of the flower is celebrated by the loyalist Song poet Qiu Yuan (c. 1247 – 1327).
Narcissus bulb carving and cultivation has become an art akin to Japanese bonsai. The bulbs may be carved to create curling leaves (crab claw culture). The bulbs can produce six to eleven flower stems from a single bulb, each with an average of eight fragrant blooms. With the additional use of props such as ribbons, artificial eyes, bindings and florists' wire, even more elaborate scenarios can be created, representing traditional subjects such as roosters, cranes, flower baskets and even teapots.
The Japanese visual novel Narcissu contains many references to the narcissus, the main characters setting out for the famed narcissus fields on Awaji Island, N. tazetta having also naturalised there.
Islamic scholar Annemarie Schimmel states that the narcissi are one of the most popular garden plants in Islamic culture. The Persian ruler Chusrau Anuschirwan, or Khosrau I (531 – 579) is said to have not been able to tolerate them at feasts because they reminded him of eyes, an association that persists to this day, as described by the poet Ghalib (1797 – 1869), "God has given the eye of the narcissus the power of seeing". The imagery could also be negative, such as blindness (white eye), sleepless or longing for love. The eye imagery is also found in a number of poems by Abu Nuwas (756 – 814). In one of his most famous poems about narcissi he writes "eyes of silver with pupils of molten gold united with an emerald stalk". Schimmel describes an Arab legend that despite the apparent sinfulness of much of his poetry, his narcissus poems alone would earn him a place in Paradise. Another poet who refers to narcissi, is Rumi (1207 – 1273). Even the prophet Mohammed is said to have praised the narcissus, "Whoever has two loaves of bread, sell one and buy narcissi, for while bread nourishes the body, the narcissus feeds the soul".
In some areas where wild narcissi are particularly prevalent, their blooming in spring is celebrated in festivals. The slopes around Montreux, Switzerland and its associated riviera come alive with blooms each May (May Snow), and are associated with the Narcissi Festival. However, the narcissi are now considered threatened. Festivals are held in many other countries and regions including Fribourg (Switzerland), Austria and in the United States, including Hawaii (Chinese New Year) and Washington State's Daffodil Festival.
Various cancer charities around the world, including the American Cancer Society, New Zealand Cancer Society, Cancer Council Australia, the Irish Cancer Society, and Marie Curie (UK)'s Great Daffodil Appeal use the daffodil emblem as a fundraising symbol. "Daffodil Days", first instituted in Toronto in 1957 by the Canadian Cancer Society, are organized to raise funds by offering the flowers in return for a donation.
- List of AGM narcissus - list of narcissus species and cultivars which have gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit
- List of Narcissus species
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- The word 'Daffodil' is also applied to related genera such as Sternbergia, Ismene and Fritillaria meleagris
- Prior here refers to the poet Pamphilus, but it is likely he meant Pamphos
- See also John Gerard's verse translation:
"But when the girles were come into
The meadowes souring all in sight,
That wench with these, this wench with those
Trim floures themselves did all delight;
She with the Narcisse good in sent"
in Earley, 1877
- The Asphodel of the Greek underworld has been variously associated with the white Asphodelus ramosus (Macmillan (1887)) or the yellow Asphodeline lutea (Graves (1949)), previously classified as Asphodelus luteus
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Literature and art
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- "Narcissus". World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Retrieved 16 October 2014.
Societies and organisations
- "The Daffodil Society" (UK). 2014. Retrieved 16 November 2014.
- "The American Daffodil Society". 2014. Retrieved 4 November 2014.
- "DaffLibrary – books, articles, and journals about daffodils". American Daffodil Society. Retrieved 4 November 2014.
- "DaffSeek - Daffodil Database with Photos". American Daffodil Society. Retrieved 4 November 2014.
- "International Daffodil Organizations". American Daffodil Society. Retrieved 16 November 2014.
- "Daffodils". Royal Horticultural Society. Retrieved 4 November 2014.
- "IBS Gallery". Gallery of the world's bulbs. International Bulb Society. 2012. Retrieved 4 November 2014.
- "National Daffodil Society of New Zealand". 2014. Retrieved 23 October 2014.
- "Narcissus". Plant Encyclopaedia. Alpine Garden Society. 2011. Retrieved 29 October 2014.
- "Flower Bulb Research Program". Department of Horticulture, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cornell University. Retrieved 3 November 2014.
- "Research Newsletter". Retrieved 3 November 2014.
- "International Flower Bulb Centre". Retrieved 3 November 2014.
- ICN (2011). "International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants". Bratislava: International Association for Plant Taxonomy. Retrieved 2 February 2014.
- "The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species". International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. 2014. Retrieved 18 November 2014.
- "Oxford Dictionaries". Oxford dictionaries online. Oxford University Press. 2014. Retrieved 17 November 2014.
- "Merriam-Webster Dictionary". Encyclopaedia Brittanica. 2014. Retrieved 20 November 2014.
- Gold, Sara; Eshel, Amram; Plotnizki, Abraham (2014). "Wild Flowers of Israel". Retrieved 7 October 2014.
- "Awaji Yumebutai International Conference Center" (Narcissus fields). Awaji Island, Japan. 2006. Retrieved 17 November 2014.
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