Tazetta Fragrance...

Billthebulbbaron@aol.com Billthebulbbaron@aol.com
Thu, 25 Dec 2003 09:12:33 PST
Interesting to read the various comments on this...

A subject I know quite well...

First for some definitions--A "paper white" has a pure stark-white cup and 
perianth.  It would be a selecton from the wild Narcissus papyraceus (a separate 
species from the yellow or bicolored tazettas and having a different basic 
chromosome number) without admixture of any other tazetta.  Dutch catalogs tend 
to refer to ALL the forceable tazettas as "paperwhites", but in reality, if 
there is any color to the cup then it is properly known just as a "tazetta" or, 
in centuries past when countless varieties were grown by the Dutch, known as 
polyanthus ("many-flowered") narcissus.  

(See article <A HREF="http://www.billthebulbbaron.com/article.htm">Little 
Cups of Gold</A> for their history.)

The main paperwhite form sold these days is Ziva.  It is extremely early and 
rapid-growing.  It has comparatively narrow foliage and a long, strong stem 
that was originally selected for use as a cutflower rather than for indoor 
forcing, so they can be prone to falling over grown indoors.  Outdoors they grow 
fine as long as there is no summer watering.  It has large florets with tips 
more rounded than the French type.  Its scent also has more vanilla than the 
old-fashioned French paperwhite (a form of which the Israelis now sell as 

The commercially grown paperwhites (remember that means purest white in cup 
as well as perianth) as a group, however, all smell, well, like a paperwhite in 
varying degrees.  Those who object to paperwhite fragrance will be amused to 
know that its scent contains larger amounts of indole compared to the other 
tazettas.  Indole is also given off by E. coli (yes, that's right).  In my 
experience, those who object to tazettas mostly do so because paperwhite is the 
only one they have encountered, and to make matters worse it is the one that 
starts off the season.  The other tazettas they like better and generally most of 
all the Chinese Sacred Lily (N. tazetta var chinensis) whch is actually from 
the eastern Mediterranean originally.  I have encountered this same good scent 
in various wild forms from the eastern Mediterranean, including a 
September-flowering form from Delos in Greece.  Luckily it is dominant in crosses with 
other tazettas.

Years ago I got some seed of "Narcissus tazetta" through the IBS.  It is a 
dwarf type that matches in fragrance another I have which was wild-collected as 
seed in Israel.  The scent is distinctly different from that which I have 
encountered in any other tazettas and it too is dominant in crosses with other 
tazettas.   A wonderful scent indeed.  This plant will flower as early as 
September, and so too many of its offspring.  

I had a paperwhite from Michael Salmon once that was collected in Morocco.  
The others I had from Morocco all smelled like a normal paparwhite but this one 
was similar to the scent of Golden Rain, a yellow tazetta, spicy and very 
nice.  But it got accidentally dug out when some adjacent bulbs were removed and 
may be lost from here.  I have not yet managed to get the same type again.  

I do have some hybrids from paperwhite x N. broussonettii all of which smell 
quite different from paperwhite, much nicer, one in particular smelling alot 
like a hyacinth.
I was just making some pollinations on 2 potted selections from the Autumn 
Colors group.  In color, shape and stature they were quite similar, about the 
color of Soleil d'Or, large and vigorous but diploid and thus highly fertile.  
The scents though differed remarkably.  One had a sharp, spicy scent clearly 
derived from Golden Rain while the other was more typical of other yellow winter 
blooming tazettas, very good but not as noteworthy.

Take a look at this link for a photo and description of the Autumn Colors 

<A HREF="http://billthebulbbaron.com/Narcissus/…">Autumn 
Colors</A>--I dont sell these, but this is the seed-grown mix I often share 
seeds of--be watching the BX as I just found some more in the barn--open 
pollinated seeds from last season, eager and ready to grow.  In my experience the 
diversity of fragrances in this group is remarkable, due in large part to the 
diversity of scent among the otherwise often similar-looking bicolored and yellow 
wild forms of the coastal Meditierranean, which are a part of their ancestry. 
 Also in their background are old diploid cultivars like Autumn Sol, Newton, 
French Sol, Gloriosus,  Grand National (R.E.Harrison, N.Z.), Odoratus, 
“MacKenzie tazetta” (Isles of Scilly), Golden Rain (Double French Sol), true Soleil 
d’Or, etc.

In general, it seems as though each individual seed-grown tazetta is at least 
a little bit different from its peers.

Best wishes,

Bill the Bulb Baron
<A HREF="http://www.billthebulbbaron.com/">Bill the Bulb Baron.com</A>
William R.P. Welch
P.O. Box 1736
(UPS: 264 West Carmel Valley Road)
Carmel Valley, CA 93924-1736, USA
Phone/fax (831) 659-3830

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