Oscar Wilde said of Daffodils. “They are like Greek things of the best period.”
Daffodils are an old plant. They are part of the genus Narcissus. The Greeks and Romans saw the wild daffodil, Narcissus pseudonarcissus, as part of a death triad. Tulips and asphodel completed the triad. Daffodils and asphodel contain crystals of calcium oxalate. This is the compound that kills other flowers when placed in a vase together. Asphodel roots and tulip bulbs are edible and during times of starvation they became part of the food source.
The Greeks felt the asphodel and wild daffodil blossoms were the same. The popular English names of Daffodowndilly, Daffodily Affodily are a corruption of the word asphodel. Robert Herrick in his poem the Hesperides connected asphodel to death. Planted near Greek tombs, asphodel and daffodils were interpret as portents of death. This association with death led to one meaning, delusive hope.
Narcissus poeticus, is one of the oldest cultivated daffodils with its pheasant’s-eye center. Known as the poet’s daffodil or narcissus. It is the daffodil that tells the story of Narcissus, a young Greek whose vanity and careless heart become his undoing. His exceptional beauty led to many stories. He refused all offers of those interested in him. The Goddess Nemesis caused him to fall in love with his own reflection. His vanity of watching himself every day caused him to waste away. In another ending he drowns after searching in vain for the lover in the pool. Which was his own reflection. Echo the nymph contributes to the tale of love and broken hearts. In all myths Narcissus rejects her. Hera punishes Echo for keeping her distracted while her husband Zeus was with his many lovers. Her punishment was that she could only repeat what others said to her. Narcissus found her after this event. The Roman writer Ovid tells us she is heartbroken after declaring her love to Narcissus. Once rejected, she goes into a cave, waste away, and leaves only her voice. Is this where our modern-day practice of echoing comes from when we step in a cave or on a mountain top?
A completely different story of spring and winter tells us how daffodils drew the Goddess Persephone away from her companions. In the Homeric Hymns written by Ovid, she is in a meadow gathering spring flowers of roses, crocuses, violets, irises, lilies, and larkspur. Enchanted by the bright, yellow flowers produced by Gaia the Earth she wandered over to pick them. The God Hades seized her and carried her to the underworld to be his bride.
The Romans brought daffodils to England and so did new meanings. For a general bouquet include them when you are sending messages of regard, gallantry, or admiration. For the most part daffodils are uplifting, hopeful, and joyful. Always give in bunches. A single is bad luck, but a group ensures happiness. A flower of spring its symbolism is new beginnings, rebirth, and remembrance. When sending with romantic thoughts you are telling the receiver that your love is unequalled, you are the only one, or the sun shines when I am with you.
Daffodils continued their travels and developed more meanings in many cultures. In China, they mean good fortune. A symbol that has become so appreciated for its ability to bring forth positive things. It is one of the official flowers for the Chinese New year. In Japan it is mirth and joyousness. If you are lucky enough to find the first daffodil in Wales, they will blessed you with more gold than silver in the coming year. Arabian countries use the daffodil as an aphrodisiac and cure for baldness. Daffodils are the flowers for March. Place them in bouquets for the 10th wedding anniversary. Or bouquets of creativity and inspiration, renewal and vitality, awareness and reflection.
Mars rules the yellow daffodils. The element Water rules all daffodils.
Today there are countless varieties of daffodils. When designed astutely you can have quite the show with members of the genus Narcissus. Look for early, mid, and late bloomers to enchant your sacred space. They do well in containers, in the ground and some will can be forced for indoor.
Found in Ireland
Rip Van Winkle
This image of the daffodil that helped me write this blog. I was recently gifted several varieties of them.
A double, variety unknown
Sources for bulbs
My local co-op has a great grower with out of the norm varieties