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The history of the daffodil, or Narcissus is fascinating. These beautiful flowers are a symbol of joy and hope. They are also often the first sign of Spring and have been loved for centuries.
Here, we discuss in more detail where the daffodil originated, how it got its name and how it became one of the nation's favourite flowers.
The Origin of The Daffodil
The word Narcissus originally stems from Greek mythology. A nymph called Echo fell in love with a Greek man called Narcissus. However, he rejected Echo leaving her heartbroken. The God of Revenge, Nemesis, lured Narcissus to a stream. But he was so taken with his own reflection that he leaned over for a better look and fell in. The myth states that Narcissus drowned and turned into a flower.
Where did the daffodil originate? Narcissus species have been found across Europe and North America but were initially seen in the Southwest of Europe. Daffodils are extremely versatile flowers. They have been discovered in meadows, woodlands as well as rockier places. Although Spain is home to the most variety of the species, they can also be spotted in Mexico, France, Italy and many other countries. However, it is the UK that is the now the main producer of the flower, producing 90% of the world's Daffodil population.
Daffodils have been around since approximately 300BC. A Greek botanist describes them in his book titled, 'Enquiry into plants'. Despite this early mention of the flower, it remained until the 19th century when more classifications took place.
Due to their popularity, there are now over 26,000 different daffodil cultivars coming from 56 species. The petals are mostly yellow or white however orange, red and even green colour combinations can be found. Many cultivars have brightly coloured cups/trumpets which can range from yellow, white, pink, orange, red, green or a combination.
Daffodils arrived in Britain
The Romans introduced Daffodils to Britain. They believed Daffodils contained healing powers. The flowers have been seen in English gardens since the 17th century yet it wasn't until the 19th century when the farming of Daffodils for cut-flowers began.
A potato farmer in Scilly found a wild Narcissi on the edge of his farm. He realized that he was able to use the railway link from Penzance to London in order to sell the flowers at market less than 48 hours from picking. He was way ahead of anyone of else in the country.
The farmer decided to develop his own bulb fields in Penzance to try and compete with the Daffodils found on the Scilly Isles. The area of Varfell is home to the Golden Mile and remains the hub of Daffodil production to this day and has taken root in the history of the Daffodil
Daffodil enthusiasts realized they could extend the Daffodil season by planting further north than Cornwall, choosing Lincolnshire and Scotland. The enthusiasts made use of the growing railway system during this time, which led to techniques being developed to delay blooming.
In 1917 a daffodil plague hit as tiny worm-like creatures called Nematodes infested the Daffodil bulb. The bulbs can lay underground for several years, making them vulnerable to disease. The inter-war years showed an increase in the use of greenhouses to try and alleviate this risk of disease which led to more Daffodils being produced in Britain than any other country. However, WW2's Dig for Victory campaign meant the land used to produce cut flowers had to be turned into farmland for edible crops. This resulted in some Daffodil bulbs such as the Fortune species being thrown onto the verges.
Daffodils have become symbolic over the years. They represent hope to many, making them a popular choice for charity emblems such as the Marie Curie Cancer Care charity. The Daffodil's bright colours spark joy and bring brightness during the cold, winter months. They are a sign of revival and a start of a new stage or season. Daffodils are also meant to bring the receiver good fortune if they are present in a bunch as a gift. However, any lone daffodil being gifted is meant to bring bad luck.
The UK is the largest producer of Daffodils worldwide. However, only one type of Daffodil is native to Britain. The stunning Lent Lily are found in orchards rather than as cut flowers.
The history of the Daffodil is extensive and although they have been around for centuries, their popularity is not dwindling at all. With new hybrids being regularly created these flowers will remain strong and be loved for many more years to come.
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