Monday, March 1, 2010

Apple #442: Daffodils

Hey, it's March.

Thought I'd do an entry about the flower for the month, which happens to be the daffodil.  So here you go.

(Photo of daffodils from Let Us Talk)

  • "Daffodil" is the common name for all the flowers that are members of the Narcissus genus.
  • You may remember the myth of Narcissus: 
  • There was once a young man who was so handsome that men and women alike fell in love with him. But he cared for no one but himself. When he spurned one admirer too many, the gods caused him to gaze at his own reflection in a pool of water.  He loved the sight of himself so much, he could not tear his eyes away.  "Now I know what others have suffered from me," he said, "for I burn with love of my own self." 

Narcissus, looking at himself, and Echo, the hapless nymph who fell in love with him.
(Painting of "Echo and Narcissus" by John William Waterhouse, is at the British National Museum in Liverpool)

  • In some versions of the story, he bent to try to touch his reflection and was drowned.  In others, he remained rooted to the spot, transfixed by the image of his own face until finally he died. When the gods tried to find his body, they found in its place a new flower, which seemed to bend its head to the ground. They named the flower after him: Narcissus.
  • This fellow is also where we get the word narcissist.  But let's go back to thinking about these flowers by their friendlier name: daffodils.
  • Daffodils are sometimes also called Jonquils, though really there is only one specific species of daffodil that should be referred to as a jonquil.
  • Daffodils are native to the Mediterranean, particularly the Iberian peninsula (Spain and Portugal).

Where daffodils originally come from.
(Map of the Iberian Peninsula from

    • The daffodil is the flower of St. David's day, celebrated in Wales on March 1.
    • This year, though, the unusual cold has delayed the daffodil crop, so the flowers are in very short supply for the Welsh holiday.
    • Most daffodils are yellow, but they may also be white or some mixture of yellow and white.

    Paperwhites are one kind of daffodil.
    (Photo from Sherwood's Forest Nursery)

    This daffodil's center, which is often referred to as the trumpet, happens to be orange center.
    (Photo from the University of Nottingham)

    • In England, people sometimes call them the Lent lily because they bloom during Lent.
    • Sprouting from bulbs, daffodils are among the first flowers to bloom in the spring.
    • They are also one of the easiest flowers to grow.  They're very tolerant of the cold, but they will grow in warmer climates, too, even as far south as the Florida and Texas along the Gulf of Mexico.
    • They don't mind shade, either, but only if it's near a deciduous tree.  They won't do well in the shade of evergreens because those block out too much shade.
    • Their favorite places to grow are hillsides or raised beds -- places where the water can drain off -- and in the sun.  They like it if their bulbs are planted about 12 inches below the surface, and then give them lots of water while they're initially growing, please.

    Representation of a daffodil as it grows from bulb to flowering plant.
    (Image from Doug Green's

      • Supposedly, squirrels and chipmunks won't eat daffodil bulbs because they contain little crystals which are poisonous to those animals.  But they may dig up the bulbs and toss them aside.

      This is what daffodil bulbs look like.  Wonderful that they turn into those bright and nodding flowers, isn't it?
      (Photo from Catholic by Grace)

      • Once they've bloomed, they can remain in flower for anywhere from six weeks to six months, depending on the cultivar and the climate.
      • After the plant has bloomed, allow the leaves to turn yellow before trimming them back.
      • They'll continue to sprout for about 3 to 5 years, but you have to dig them up.  After the leaves have yellowed and you've trimmed them, dig them up, wash them off, and let the bulbs dry out for about a week.  Put them in a breathable sack, like an onion bag, and store them in the coolest place you have until next spring.
      • Don't eat daffodils. They're poisonous!

      Here's that famous poem that's got daffodils in it:

      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 golden daffodils;
      Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
      Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

      Continuous as the stars that shine
      And twinkle on the milky way,
      They stretched in never-ending line
      Along the margin of a bay:
      Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
      Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

      The waves beside them danced; but they
      Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
      A poet could not but be gay,
      In such a jocund company:
      I gazed---and gazed---but little thought
      What wealth the show to me had brought:

      For oft, when on my couch I lie
      In vacant or in pensive mood,
      They flash upon that inward eye
      Which is the bliss of solitude;
      And then my heart with pleasure fills,
      And dances with the daffodils.

      ("I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud," William Wordsworth, 1804)

      Wordsworth wrote this poem after his sister told him about coming across a field of daffodils. Perhaps what she saw looked like this:

      This field of daffodils is on a hill in Volcano, CA.
      (Photo by Kepola on Panoramio)

      American Daffodil Society, Frequently Asked Questions and Guidelines for Growing
      The Flower Expert, Daffodils
      Myth Encyclopedia, Narcissus
      Edith Hamilton, Mythology
      Paul Sims, "Lonely as a cloud: Coldest winter for 30 years puts daffodil crop month behind schedule," Daily Mail, February 28, 2010, March Birth Flower: Daffodils
      Birth Flowers Guide, March Birth Flower


      1. I always think of jonquils in relation to the South. Probably because of Glass Menagerie.

      2. I have never been able to grow these and I just love them Such a happy flower!


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