Monday, January 2, 2017


Common names for this flower are daffodil or narcissus. I enjoy the double-flowered narcissi, the varieties that have extra petals.

Narcissi-the plural form of the common name narcissus causes some confusion.

The exact origin of the name Narcissus is unknown, but it is often linked to a Greek word meaning intoxicated and the myth of the youth of that name who fell in love with his own reflection. According to the myth, Narcissus, the beautiful youth, became so obsessed with his own reflection in water that he drowned and the narcissus plant sprang from where he died. The name Narcissus was not uncommon for men in ancient Europe.

There is, however, no evidence for the flower being named for the youth. Narcissus poeticus, one of the first narcissi to be cultivated, grows in Greece and it was described to have an intoxicating fragrance. Pliny (Gaius Plinius Secundus [AD 23-AD 79] who was a Roman naturalist among other things) wrote that the plant was named for its fragrance not the youth. Furthermore, there were accounts of narcissi growing long before the story of Narcissus appeared.

                                    The Metamorphosis of Narcissus by Salvador Dali based on Ovid’s tale of Narcissus and Echo

It has also been suggested that daffodils bending over streams represent the youth admiring his reflection.

Narcissi were well known in ancient Greece and Rome, both medicinally and botanically, but the flower was formally described by Carl von Linné in his Species Plantarum (1753). Linné used the Latin name 'narcissus' for the plant which was preceded by others actually.

Narcissus is a genus of spring perennial plants in the Amaryllidaceae (amaryllis) family. The flowers are generally white or yellow, with either, uniform or contrasting colored tepals and corona (the outermost whorls of the flower parts are called tepals when the sepals and petals are not of unequal appearance. The corona is the ring of structures forming between the tepals and the stamen).

With a long history of breeding, thousands of different cultivars of narcissi have been created. For horticultural purposes, narcissi are classified into groups covering a wide range of shapes.

Estimates of the number of species in Narcissus have varied widely, from anywhere between 16 and almost 160 even in the modern era. The evolutionary history within the genus of Narcissus still remains relatively unsettled. “Taxonomy-the naming-has been complex and difficult to resolve due to the diversity of the wild species, the ease with which natural hybridization occurs, and extensive cultivation and breeding accompanied by escape and naturalisation. Consequently, the number of accepted species varies widely.” (

The double-flowered narcissi that I prefer have names like bridal crown, double cheerfulness, white lion, narcissus alba, double star or Wintston Churchill. A Churchill narcissus? Double narcissus ‘Sir Winston Churchill’ is a fragrant, late-blooming variety registered in 1966. It was named as a tribute to the United Kingdom’s Winston Churchill.

The double-flowered trait is often noted alongside the scientific name with the abbreviation fl. pl. (flore pleno, Latin for ‘with full flower’). The double-flower is in fact the first documented abnormality in flowers. It was first observed thousands of years ago.

                                                                                 Narcissi, Hortus Eystettensis 1613

‘Double-flowered’ describes varieties of flowers with extra petals, often containing flowers within flowers. In some double-flowered varieties all of the reproductive organs are converted to petals and as a result, they are sexually sterile and must be propagated through cuttings. Many double-flowered plants have little wildlife value as access to the nectaries-glands producing a rich liquid-is typically blocked because of the mutation.

Narcissus is a genus of ‘perennial herbaceous bulbiferous geophytes’ which means after flowering the plant dies back to an underground storage bulb and re-sprouts when the time comes.

The plants are scapose, having a single central leafless hollow flower stem (scape). 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-an umbel.

                                      Photographs:Tülay Karayazgan

I don’t know how they determine this but it is noted that the genus Narcissus arose millions of years ago. Although the Amaryllidaceae family are predominantly tropical or subtropical as a whole, Narcissus occurs primarily in the Mediterranean region, with a center of diversity in the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal). The species are native to meadows and woods, river banks and rocky crevices. Narcissus has been naturalized in the Far East and Great Britain which are believed to be early introductions. Different species grow in many places from Europe all the way to the Near East. Historical accounts suggest narcissi have been cultivated from the earliest times, but became increasingly popular in Europe after the 16th century and by the late 19th century were an important commercial crop in the Netherlands.

In Turkey narcissus is farmed in Karaburun and Mordoğan in the Aegean Region. Mostly the double-flower varieties are grown and they usually bloom at the end of December, beginning of January.

The beauty lives on……

                                   Narcissus 'White Lion' (div. 4. Real Jardín Botánico, Madrid, España. March 2010 by Cillas)

                                        Narcissus 'Bridal Crown' (Div. 4 March 2005 by de:Benutzer:BS Thurner Hof)


  1. Hi Beste - wonderful write-up of one of my favourite flowers ... I'll be getting some so they scent the flat. Some friends sent my brother and SIL some Scilly Islands Narcissi for Christmas, while I'd found some daffodils at the local flower seller and had some for us all ... they are gorgeous ... cheers Hilary

  2. Replies
    1. I did not know about this painting myself. Isn't it wonderful?

  3. What a treat in mid-winter to have narcissi in your home, Hilary. Learning about plants is also uplifting.