Michael A. Stecker


(orange rimmed Narcissus)

Narcissus is the botanic name for a genus of mainly hardy, mostly spring-flowering, bulbs in the Amaryllis family native to Europe, North Africa, and Asia. There are also several Narcissus species that bloom in the autumn. Though Hortus Third cites 26 wild species, Daffodils for North American Gardenscites between 50 and 100 excluding species variants and wild hybrids. Through taxonomic and genetic research, it is speculated that over time this number will likely continue to be refined.Daffodil is a common English name, sometimes used now for all varieties, and is the chief common name of horticultural prevalence used by the American Daffodil Society. The range of forms in cultivation has been heavily modified and extended, with new variations available from specialists almost every year.

There are two derivations of the name. One is that of the youth of Greek mythology called Narcissus, who, in at least one of many variations of the tale, became so obsessed with his own reflection as he kneeled and gazed into a pool of water that he fell into the water and drowned. In some variations, he died of starvation and thirst from just sitting by the edge of the pool until he gave out, gazing at his reflection until he died. In both versions, the Narcissus plant first sprang from where he died. The other derivation is that the plant is named after its narcotic properties (narkoa, to numb in Greek).

There are several plurals in common use: "Narcissuses", "Narcissi", and "Narcissus". This last is common in American English but is very rare in British usage. The American Webster's Third New International Dictionary gives plurals in the order "Narcissus", "Narcissuses", and "Narcissi", but the British Compact Oxford English Dictionary lists just "Narcissi" and "Narcissuses".

The name Daffodil is derived from an earlier "Affodell", a variant of Asphodel. The reason for the introduction of the initial "d" is not known, although a probable source is an etymological merging from the Dutch article "de," as in "De affodil." From at least the sixteenth century "Daffadown Dilly", "daffadown dilly", and "daffydowndilly" have appeared as playful synonyms of the name.

The name jonquil is sometimes used in North America, particularly in the southeastern United States, but strictly speaking that name belongs only to the rush-leaved Narcissus jonquilla and cultivars derived from it. In the southern United States, narcissus are sometimes referred to as buttercups.

All Narcissus species have a central trumpet-, bowl-, or disc-shaped corona surrounded by a ring of six floral leaves called the perianth which is united into a tube at the forward edge of the 3-locular ovary. The seeds are black, round and swollen with hard coat. The three outer segments are sepals, and the three inner segments are petals. Though the traditional daffodil of folklore, poetry, and field may have a yellow to golden-yellow color all over, both in the wild species and due to breeding, the perianth and corona may be variously colored. Breeders have developed some daffodils with double, triple, or ambiguously multiple rows and layers of segments, and several wild species also have known double variants.

In kampo (traditional Japanese medicine), wounds were treated with narcissus root and wheat flour paste, though it does not appear in the modern kampo herb list. 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". In one scientific study, the ethanol extract of the bulbs was found effective in one mouse model of nociception, para-benzoquinone induced abdominal constriction, but not in another, the hot plate test.

One of the most common dermatitis problems for florists, "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 in the sap.

All Narcissus varieties contain the alkaloid poison lycorine, mostly in the bulb but also in the leaves .

Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Asparagales
Family: Amaryllidaceae


Photographic data:
Camera: Canon G9
Flash: Canon 430EXII with LumiQuest Bounce Kit (white)
iso 80, Aperture Priority at f/6.3, 1/100 second, focal length 12.73 mm (macro)
ec= -0.33,  fec= -2/3
Time shot: 10:32 AM on 3-15-2009