Plant of the Month: Narcissus

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The narcissus, or daffodil, as it is often called, is one of the first plants to bloom in early spring, marking the end of winter with their vibrant and playful blooms. Today, many varieties and colors can be bought, ranging from tones of yellow, white, orange, pink, red and green. Daffodils have become one of the most popular flowers in spring due to their great beauty. In fact, the name “Narcissus” comes from a tale centered on the concept of beauty.

Greek mythology tells the story of a young man named Narcissus, who was renowned for his beauty across the land. He was exceptionally proud and came to despise those that loved him. Many beautiful nymphs and women fell in love with him but he rejected them all. Nemesis, a Goddess characterized as an avenger of crime and the punisher of arrogance before the Gods, heard the cries of the many scorned women and led Narcissus to a pool of water so he could see his reflection. Narcissus fell in love with his reflection and was so mesmerized by his own beauty that he fell in and drowned. The tale concludes that where he died, the first Narcissus grew and bloomed.

For the Ancient Greeks, the narcissus came to symbolize unrequited love. In Wales, folklore says that if you see the first daffodil of the season, wealth and abundance will follow with you until the next season. Chinese legend has it that if you force a daffodil to bloom during the New Year, it will bring good luck to your home. Today, if you call this plant by the name narcissus it represents vanity and egotism, but if you call it a daffodil it represents rebirth, new beginnings and friendship due to its early spring blooms.

Daffodils were once very popular in the gardens of the ancient Greeks and Romans but soon became forgotten among the weeds. In 1629, a group of Englishmen resurrected them from the weeds and brought them home where their popularity grew quickly as a garden staple.

The use of daffodils for medical use has been recorded in Japan and Rome as treatment for wounds, but today we know that daffodils contain skin irritation and illness if consumed. However, daffodils are very important in the modern treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Daffodils are grown commercially in Wales to produce galantamine, a drug used to combat Alzheimer's disease.

Narcissuses have one of the most interesting and varied histories. The tale is dark and ominous but these early bloomers bring joy to many of us with their colorful blooms that mark the end of the winter season and the beginning of the joyous spring season.

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