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Botanical Name : Narcissus Pseudo-narcissus
Species: N. pseudonarcissus
Synonyms: Narcissus. Porillon. Daffy-down-dilly. Fleur de coucou.
Habitat :Daffodil is native to Western Europe from Spain and Portugal east to Germany and north to England and Wales. It is commonly grown in gardens and populations have become established in many other parts of Europe. Wild plants grow in woods, grassland and on rocky ground. In Britain native populations have decreased substantially since the 19th century due to intensification of agriculture, clearance of woodland and uprooting of the bulbs for use in gardens. In Germany it was a subject of a national awareness campaign for the protection of wildflowers in 1981.
In England, in the North York Moors National Park, the Farndale valley hosts a large population of the species, along the banks of the River Dove.
In England, in Gloucestershire, there are several nature reserves supporting large populations of the species near Dymock Woods SSSI. There is a Daffodil Walk Trail around several reserves in the spring.
Daffodil is a bulbous perennial flowering plant with upright, strap-like, grey-green leaves. The leaves arise from the base of the stem and are up to 35 cm long and 12 mm wide, with rounded tips. A single flower is produced at the tip of the flattened flower-stalk. The flower consists of a dark yellow ‘trumpet’ (corona) surrounded by a ring of 3 sepals and 3 petals (perianth), which are a lighter yellow. The flowers are up to 60 mm long and the ‘trumpet’ and ring of petals are roughly the same length. Flowers are usually produced from March to April. The daffodil is clump-forming, but reproduction is primarily via seed production.
The daffodil is the ‘golden’ flower that inspired the poetry of William Wordsworth.
Cultivation & propagation:
Propagation of daffodils at Kew is normally carried out by dividing clumps where drifts of plants have become dense. The bulbs taken out are used to bulk up areas where daffodils are thinly distributed, or to create new plantings.
Daffodils have also been propagated from seed at Kew. The seeds are collected from mature daffodils at Kew during early summer and sown on an open compost mix in pots and kept outside. The pots are then placed in a cold frame during the winter. The seeds germinate in autumn with emergence of seedlings the following spring; however it takes three to five years before daffodils are mature enough to be planted into the Gardens.
Commercially, daffodils are propagated by tissue culture or twin-scaling. In twin-scaling the bulbs are cut into longitudinal segments. These are separated into pairs of scales joined by a portion of basal plate. When planted in compost these develop bulbils on the basal plate and the bulbils can be grown on to form new plants.
Parts Used: Bulb, leaves, flowers.
Chemical Constituents:Professor Barger has given the following notes on the alkaloid of Narcissus Pseudo-narcissus. ‘In 1910 Ewins obtained from the bulbs a crystalline alkaloid, to which he gave the name of narcissine, and on analysis found the formula to be C16H17ON.’ He notes that the alkaloid is characterized by great stability and cannot easily be decomposed. Ringer and Morshead found the alkaloid from resting bulbs acted like pilocarpine, while that from the flowering bulbs resembled atropine. Laidlaw tested Ewins’ alkaloid on frogs and cats, but found no action similar to pilocarpine or atropine. 0.125 gram given by mouth to a cat caused vomiting, salivation and purgation. In 1920 Asahtna, Professor of Chemistry in the Tokyo College of Pharmacy, showed that narcissine is identical with Iycorine isolated from Lycoris radiata in 1899. The name narcissine has therefore been dropped. Lycorine is quite common in the N.O. Amaryllidaceae. It was found in Buphane disticha by Tutin in the Mellome Research Laboratory in 1911 (Journ. Chem. Soc. Transactions 99, page 1,240). It is generally present in quite small quantities, at most 0.1 to 0.18 per cent of the fresh material. Chemically, Iycorine or narcissine has some resemblance to hydrastine, and like it, contains a dioxymethylene group.
The following is a quotation from Culpepper:
‘Yellow Daffodils are under the dominion of Mars, and the roots thereof are hot and dry in the third degree. The roots boiled and taken in posset drink cause vomiting and are used with good success at the appearance of approaching agues, especially the tertian ague, which is frequently caught in the springtime. A plaster made of the roots with parched barley meal dissolves hard swellings and imposthumes, being applied thereto; the juice mingled with honey, frankincense wine, and myrrh, and dropped into the ears is good against the corrupt and running matter of the ears, the roots made hollow and boiled in oil help raw ribed heels; the juice of the root is good for the morphew and the discolouring of the skin.’
It is said by Galen to have astringent properties. It has been used as an application to wounds. For hard imposthumes, for burns, for strained sinews, stiff or painful joints, and other local ailments, and for ‘drawing forth thorns or stubs from any part of the body’ it was highly esteemed.
The Daffodil was the basis of an ancient ointment called Narcissimum.
The powdered flowers have been used as an emetic in place of the bulbs, and in the form of infusion or syrup, in pulmonary catarrh.
Modern daffodil cultivars are important ornamental crops; more daffodils are planted than any other perennial ornamental plant. Britain is the major grower of daffodils for both flowers and bulbs, which are also grown commercially in the Netherlands, United States, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.
Wild daffodils were picked in great numbers in Britain in the past, and in the 1930s there was even a ‘Daffodil Special’ train service run by the Great Western Railway to take Londoners to the Gloucestershire-Herefordshire border to admire and buy the flowers.
The national flower of Wales, traditionally worn on St David’s Day (1 March), is a daffodil, although it is thought by some to be the Tenby daffodil (N. pseudonarcissus subspecies major, also known by the synonym N. obvallaris), which is native to South Wales, rather than N. pseudonarcissus subspecies pseudonarcissus. The Tenby daffodil has small, uniformly yellow flowers and short stiff stems.
Known hazards: The leaves, stems, seed pods and bulbs contain toxic alkaloids. If eaten they can cause dizziness, abdominal pain, diarrhoea and occasionally also convulsions. The toxins are usually most concentrated in the bulbs. Rather surprisingly, daffodil bulbs have been eaten on occasion after being mistaken for onions. The sap can cause dermatitis, and the leaves are poisonous to livestock.
The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider