December also has another flower, Holly. 

Narcissus, also known as the daffodil bulbous plant, has tall inner leaves with bright yellow or white flowers.  It symbolizes sweetness and is native to the Mediterranean; with some species in Asia and China.  It doubles as both the common plant name and scientific moniker for about 50 different common daffodils.

The ethnological meaning of the Narcissus flower is a Greek name that became linked to this plant thousands of years ago.  In mythology, Narcissus was a young lad so enamored with himself, he stared at the reflection of himself in a pool of water until he changed into his namesake flower.  Narcissus is one of the most popular flowers in the world and the most popular flower in Germany.

Narcissus is a genus of predominantly spring flowering perennials.  Plants of the Amaryllis family, Amaryllidaceae; common names including Daffodil, Narcissus and Jonquil are all or part of this family.  Narcissus has conspicuous flowers with six petal-like tepals surmounted by a cup – or trumpet – shaped corona.  The flowers are generally white or yellow (also can be orange and pink in garden varieties), with either uniform or contrasting colored tepals and corona.

Narcissus were well known in ancient civilization both medicinally and botanically and described by Linnaeus in his Species Plantarum, (1753).

Narcissi tend to be long – living bulbs, which propagate by division, but are also insect-pollinated.  Known pests, diseases and disorders include viruses fungi, the larvae of flies, mites and nematodes.  Some Narcissus species have become extinct, while others are threatened by increasing urbanization and tourism.

Narcissi are classified into divisions, covering a wide range of shapes and colors, and like other members of this family, they produce a number of different alkaloids.  This property has been exploited for medical use and has resulted in the production of galantamine for the treatment of Alzheimer’s dementia.  Long celebrated in art and literature, Narcissi are associated with a number of themes in different cultures ranging from death to good fortune and as a symbol of spring.

Narcissus is a perennial, which dies back after flowering to an underground storage bulb.  They regrow in the following year from a brown-skinned ovoid bulb,(egg shaped), with pronounced necks and reach heights of 5-80 cm depending on species.

The plants are scapose, having a single central leafless hollow flower stem.  Several green or blue-green, narrow, strap-shaped leaves arise from the bulb.  The plant stem usually bears a solitary flower, but occasionally a cluster of flowers. (umbel).  The flowers, which are usually easily noticed white or yellow, sometimes both but rarely green.

The name “Daffodil” is derived from “Affodell”, a variant of Asphodel. The Narcissus was frequently referred to as the Asphodel.  The reason for the introduction of the initial “d” is not known.

The flower longevity varies by species and conditions, ranging from 5-20 days.  Like many bulb plants from temperate regions, a period of exposure to cold is necessary before spring growth can begin.

Narcissi have been cultivated from at least as early as the 16th century in the Netherlands.  Large numbers of bulbs were imported from the fields, especially the Narcissus Hispanicus, that was nearly extinct in its native habitat of France and Spain. 

Cultivated also in Britain around 1557, accounts show it was well known as a favorite garden and wild flower long before that.  It was used to make garlands.  By 1613 there were 3 different types of Narcissus present in upper Bavaria.  Also, in 1632, Peter Lauremberg, a German source, gave accounts of the species known to him and their cultivation. The Narcissus cultivars are split into 13 divisions.  New cultivars are registered by name and color.

Narcissus alkaloids have been used for many complaints including, cancer tumors, abscesses, wounds, sprains, painful joints, decongestant, dysentery, burns, bruises, freckles, drawing out thorns and splinters. 

It is the national flower of Wales.  It is also a national flower symbolizing the New Year for Newroz in the Iranian culture.  Narcissus’s flower symbolizes rebirth and the end of winter.  The flower is known for prosperity or to wish for someone’s prosperity when given in a bunch.  A single stemmed Narcissus flower symbolizes misfortune.

Carolyn Surdel

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