Narcissus Name Meaning and Symbolism (Daffodil)

Narcissus is probably one of the most familiar genera out there, consisting of over 100 species of trumpet-shaped flowers, hailing from the woodland and meadows in North Africa and Europe.

Narcissus At A Glance

Daffodils come from the Amaryllis plant family, which means they are related to snowdrops, lily of the Nile, alliums, garlic, and hippeastrums, among other beautiful plants.

In spring, the bulbs produce trumpet shaped flowers in yellow or white or both,  marking the start of the new season, and the end of winter, which can’t come soon enough for many gardeners!

Daffodils remain one of the most popular spring bulbs around, and thanks to how easy they are to hybridize, many new types are being created, including double-flowering forms with distorted trumpets, peach, apricot, or even light pink daffodils. 

Daffodils are a source of inspiration to many, and we’ve been cultivating them for at least 2000 years, not just for their beauty, but also for their use in traditional medicine. 

These flowers mean different things to different cultures, including pride, vanity, death, life, prosperity, and renewal.

They also have a great place in myth, art, and legend, inspiring many forms of art, including literature, poetry, paintings, ceramics, and more. 

Narcissus Name Origin

The genus name is directly taken from the Latin word narcissus, which comes from the Greek narkissos, which is thought to stem from narke, translating as numbness or sleep.

Along similar lines, some people think that it comes from the Greek word for intoxicated, referring to the myth of Narcissus who loved his own reflection and no one else.

This is also where the term narcissism comes from, which describes a disorder where someone has a deep-rooted need for attention to be on them at all times, as well as having a distorted opinion of themselves, where everything revolves around them, and nothing else.

The word daffodil comes from affodell, belonging to the Asphodelus genus, which daffodils were often compared to and confused with.

The Symbolism Of Daffodil Flowers

Daffodils have both positive and negative meanings. In terms of negative connotations, daffodils are closely linked to the tale of Narcissus and self-obsession.

On a more positive note, daffodils represent a fresh start, new opportunities, and rebirth.

This is partly due to the way the flowers appear during the first few weeks of spring, signaling the start of a new season.

The daffodil is considered the national flower of Wales and is one of its main symbols, and the plant is also associated with Easter celebrations, too.

For a detailed breakdown on what daffodils symbolize, including what the different colored flowers represent, visit Daffodil Flower Meaning And Symbolism

Toxicity

While the daffodil is seen as a harmless flower, often associated with Easter, spring, and joy, it’s important to note that the plant has significant levels of toxicity, making them fairly dangerous.

You might have heard of daffodil itch, which affects those who pick the flowers with their bare hands. Signs include scaling, dryness, and fissures, and general skin irritation, thanks to the chemicals in the sap, which may run over your hands when you break a flower stem.

If you are unlucky enough to have an open wound and some of the chemicals found in the bulb gets in there, you may suffer from heart problems or nervous system issues, so be very careful!

Daffodil bulbs can be confused with leek or onion bulbs, but they also have a nasty taste to them, which helps tell them apart.

As a general rule, you should always be careful about harvesting anything from the wild, not just because it could do you a great deal of harm, but also because you could cause damage to the environment, too.

Daffodils are poisonous to both animals and humans, and can result in stomach pain, vomiting, trembling, paralysis, and even death.

It’s also worth noting that placing daffodils in a vase with other flowers will mean the daffodil will poison its neighbors!

Daffodil Uses

As with many poisonous plants, daffodils have had a number of uses in traditional medicine for hundreds of years. 

Narcissus has been used for centuries to treat cancer and tumors, which is why several cancer charities use the daffodil as their symbol.

They were also employed to treat skin complaints, asthma, and to purge the body of poison.

Daffodil Growing Requirements

Daffodils are hardy in USDA zones 3 through to 9, and while the majority of daffodils flower in spring, you can get types which flower in fall, too.

Some Narcissus only reach about 10cm high, while others can reach up to 3 feet tall, depending on the variety you go for.

The bigger varieties have much larger flowers on average, but the smaller types tend to produce flowers in clusters.

Daffodils need soil which has good drainage, otherwise the bulbs will rot. These plants prefer soil with plenty of nutrients, which stays consistently damp, with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0.

Daffodils will survive in a position of full sunlight, or dappled shade, whichever you happen to have in your garden.

They’re not only grown for their beauty, but also for their low maintenance requirements.

They don’t usually require any additional watering from you, and the only maintenance you’ll need to do is to deadhead the spent flowers, and divide the plants every few years.

For more on how to look after daffodils, visit A Beginner’s Guide To Growing Daffodils

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