Well I guess spring will arrive in its own sweet time. Meanwhile I got bored of waiting and bought some narcissi to brighten the place up a bit. Having taken some rather poor photographs of them, I tried to spruce them up a bit on the computer.
More usually we call them daffodils and they are a member of the Amaryllidaceae family. They are natives of Europe and Africa, being introduced later to the Far East. They have become an important crop, providing cut flowers to connoisseurs such as myself. However, they were and still are an important plant for health purposes. They produce alkaloids as a poison to protect themselves, but these can have medicinal properties. Daffodils are grown commercially near Brecon, in Wales, to produce Galantamine, a drug used in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. It is also the national flower of Wales.
It is thought that the plant was named after Narcissus who spent far too long admiring his own reflection in a pool and eventually drowned in it. However, Pliny (who should know because he named the plant) claimed it was named after its fragrance, from the Greek for “I grow numb”.
The variety of cultivar shapes reflect the variety of pollinators they attract; including bees, butterflies, moths and flies. Wild daffodils are now rare due to habitat destruction. If you want to know why they are yellow, you might like to read my blog posts here and here.
Like many other flowers, some superstitious people will not have them in the house. They are considered unlucky because they hang their heads. They are also associated with death, possibly due to accidental and non-accidental poisonings, but also because Hades kidnapped Persephone into the Underworld while she was picking narcissi. As you might imagine, Sylvia Plath has written a cheery poem about them, which you can read here, but I shall whet your appetite with a snippet:
The narcissi, too, are bowing to some big thing :
It rattles their stars on the green hill where Percy
Nurses the hardship of his stitches, and walks and walks.