Jonquil, daffodil, Narcissus

Jim McKenney
Wed, 17 Mar 2004 00:03:21 PST
Because no one has taken my hint and asked the "jonquil question", I've
decided to go ahead and ask it/answer it myself. 

In several related recent postings I've mused on the public's understanding
of the words daffodil and narcissus. Jonquil deserves some attention, too.
I just looked at the American Daffodil Society site, and I'm happy to say
that they have, in effect, stolen a bit of my thunder.

Several years ago I listened as a daffodil friend responded to the question
"what is a jonquil" and proceeded to answer the question in terms of the
flower. I thought it was a very odd answer because, as far as I'm
concerned, the answer should have nothing at all to do with the flower. The
term jonquil itself is a bit of an oddity: apparently it came to botany
from the French who in turn got the word from the Spanish, but it is
ultimately thought to be derived from the Latin juncus for rush. 

Whenever people ask me about the difference between jonquils and other
daffodils, I point out that the difference has nothing whatsoever to do
with the flowers. The difference is in the foliage. Daffodils with
rush-like leaves are all properly called jonquils. No daffodil with flat
leaves is properly called a jonquil.    

Please, I'm not saying this to pick a fight with the ADS. Their definitions
are fine for their intended purpose, and they certainly don't need me to
tell them about daffodils. But in the wider world, across the many
languages which  use this term jonquil in one form or another, I'll bet the
meaning is closer to the literal one I've suggested than to either the one
prevailing among American  gardeners or the somewhat narrower one used,
with impeccable propriety, by the ADS. 

Jim McKenney
Montgomery County, Maryland, zone 7, where I'm on my way to check out my
daffodils, narcissi, bastard daffodils and jonquils and the opposition can
now load their muskets and prepare to fire the response volley. The Battles
Be Joyned!

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