Narcissus vs. Daffodils

Mon, 22 Mar 2004 02:05:32 PST
Jamie Vande    Cologne    Germany    Zone 8

It will be interesting to see how the American gardener defines his/her
Easter Bells (the translation from German).  In Britain, most gardeners
reserve Daffodil for the all yellow large-cup Narcissus, the others may have
common names, such as Jonquil for the small flowered, scented, cluster
forms, but Daffodil is still a generic term for the lot.  Where the name
Daffodil comes, I've never found a concrete reference.  Narcissus is clear,
coming from the Greek Myth of Echo and Narcissus, which the Romans overtook
without change, but I've not found any reference to Daffodil in a legend.
The usage is apparently English language and, indeed, the Daffodil is
historically bound to Wales as a tiding of Spring and the lambing season.
Maybe there is a connection.  I am always a bit suspect of a British
expression with an "o" in the middle, which is often a relic of contraction.
Daff o(f) Dil?  There is a St. David's Day (Welsh) in the blooming period of
the Daffodil, perhaps the Daff is actually Dav.  In Europe, David is often
pronounced Da-fid, with the "a" short.  Is Dil refering to Dell, a biotop
frequently harbouring native populations of Narcissus?  Probably reaching a
bit, here!  Sounds like romantic propoganda!

I did find a reference to the legend of Persephone, where she is said to
have picked Daffodils in one of the valleys near the gates of Hades, but I
found no concrete ground for the interpretation and question it's
authenticity.  Surely, the passage exists, but it refers to Affodilus
(asphodelus), which could be connected....or not!  It seems strange that, in
one Myth, Narcissus are the daffodils sprung from the self-enamoured
boy-hunter, while Persephones blossoms are Affodilus, which may refer to
Jacob's Rod (Asphodeline lutea). There is a reference, as in soooo many
floral legends, that the flower now hangs its head in shame!  Hmmm.
Affodil?  Could be.

This is a problem researching ancient texts, which have been translated and
re-interpreted.  Perhaps Daffodil is the product of 4 Millenium of
translation and adaptation, inlcuding many legends and folklorica that have
become attached corectly or erroneously to the golden blossoms.

The genus Narcissus is mainly European, therefore we need not look too far
to find the source of Daffodil......hopefully.  Really, someone out there
must know more to the legend of the Daffodil!  Now, I'm really curious.

More information about the pbs mailing list