Identifying Narcissus species

Jim McKenney
Thu, 14 Mar 2013 11:39:42 PDT
Jane McGary wrote: "As usual this time of year, I'm wondering what to call the many 
seed-grown Narcissus in my bulb beds."

I had my own Narcissus nomenclature issues this week, too. The Washington Post runs an excellent once-a-week column called Urban Jungle which discusses a wide range of natural history phenomena. This week's column discussed the ability of honey bees to warm up using daffodil flowers. The study was based on a species called Narcissus longispathus and the accompanying drawings showed a typical yellow trumpet daffodil. The article was based on a piece which appeared in Ecology titled Insect Physiological Ecology: Mechanisms and Patterns. You can view the newspaper article here:…

I stared and thought for a few moments and then had to admit to myself that I had never heard of Narcissus longispathus. A copy of Bowles was nearby, so I checked the index: he did not list such a name eighty years ago. Our PBS Wiki does  mention the name after noting the the naming of daffodils is a mess. A Google search turned up a Wikipedia entry for this plant; among the information given there is  that this species is not recognized by the World Checklist of Selected Plant Families, which makes it a synonym of Narcissus hispanicus. A check of IPNI shows that the species longispathus was named in 1933  (Bowles was published in 1934 so it's not surprising that it's not listed there). A varietas was added in 1982, three subspecific names regarded as invalid were published in 2008 and another varietas added in 2011. 

So Jane is not alone in having Narcissus nomenclature issues. 

Jim McKenney
Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, USDA zone 7, where snowdrops, winter aconites and early crocuses are quickly fading and squills, daffodils and magnolias are poised to perform the next act.  

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