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Known for their beautiful yellow flowers, daffodils are one of the early bloomers in spring, bringing sunshine to the season after a long, dreary winter. Here’s a closer look at its mythology, history and significance today.
About the Daffodil
Grown from bulbs, daffodils are the trumpet-like flowers of the Narcissus genus, which belong to the Amaryllidaceae family. They’re native to the meadows of northern Europe, but also grown in North America and other regions with temperate climates.
While yellow is their most popular color, daffodils can also be seen in white, orange or pink. These beautiful flowers have a trumpet shape formed by a central corona and surrounded by six petals. Apart from brightening up the garden with their cheery hues, they can also fill the space with sweet fragrance.
Some variants of daffodils are called jonquils, which have daintier blooms and overwhelming scent. While its ‘Carlton’ variety blooms in the early spring, the ‘Geranium’ and the ‘Falconet’ showcase their flowers during mid- to late spring.
Interesting Fact: Even they’re sweetly scented, animals do not eat the flower since it contains sap with sharp crystals.
Daffodils in Mythology
In Greek mythology, Narcissus, the son of the river god Kephissos and the nature deity Liriope, was known for his beauty. There are several versions of the myth, but the most popular states that Echo, a nymph in the mountains, fell in love with the boy.
Unfortunately, Narcissus was arrogant and told her to go away. Echo was deeply hurt, so Aphrodite as the goddess of love decided to punish the boy. When he went to drink from a pond, he saw his own reflection and fell deeply in love with it.
He continued to stare at his reflection, feeling the pangs of unrequited love. Eventually, he wasted away and died. In his place, a narcissus bloomed, a reminder of the dangers of vanity and self-obsession.
Meaning and Symbolism of the Daffodil
Apart from its fragrance and bright color, daffodil also carries several meanings. There are too many to mention, but here are the main ones:
- Rebirth and New Beginnings – We know it’s finally spring when these flowers burst into bloom. No wonder they also became a symbol of hope and renewal.
- Beauty and Admiration – Daffodils remind us of the simple pleasures and feelings that come from being in love. In some contexts, they represent inner beauty, sunlight and the sunshine. The bloom simply says, “The sun shines when I’m with you,” and “Stay as sweet as you are.”
- Truth and Honesty – Daffodils represent truth and honesty, and are an excellent flower to give when apologizing to someone.
- Vanity and Death – Because of the popular myth, the flower is associated with excessive self-love, deceitful hopes, uncertainty and unrequited love. In fact, the term narcissism is derived from the name Narcissus. Also, it’s thought that the Narcissus or daffodil is the flower of the Underworld.
- In some contexts, daffodil also symbolizes the promise of eternal life and contentment, as well as faith and forgiveness.
In addition to this, here are some of the popular varieties of daffodils and their respective meanings:
- Jonquil (N. jonquilla) – These daintier blooms represent desire and longings. In some contexts, this flower also symbolizes sympathy.
- Pheasant’s Eye (N. poeticus) – Sometimes referred to as poet’s daffodil or poets’ Narcissus, this flower variety is commonly associated with remembrance and sorrowful memories. However, it can also represent selfishness and egotism.
- Paperwhite (Narcissus papyraceus) – In many cultures, these blooms are regarded as an aphrodisiac.
Uses of Daffodil Flower throughout History
Daffodils are a popular flower and have had influence in several areas over history.
- In Gardens
Daffodils are thought to be the favorite flower of Queen Anne, which inspired her to build the first botanical garden in England, commonly known today as Kensington Palace Gardens.
- In Beauty
The flower is commonly cultivated in the Netherlands for its essential oil, which can be found in many perfumes, beauty products and cosmetics. The Dolce perfume by Dolce & Gabbana features the scent of daffodils, along with papaya and nuts.
- In Medicine
In ancient Rome, the bulbs and roots of daffodils were applied topically to tumors. Some variants of the flower are also used as a treatment for painful joints, wounds, abscesses, burns, splinters and bruises. In Wales, daffodils are commonly grown to produce galantamine, which is used to treat Alzheimer’s disease.
- In Superstitions
There are varying beliefs regarding the flower, from providing protection to warding off evil spirits and breaking negative spells. In some regions, daffodils are even considered a good luck charm and aphrodisiac. In fact, some people wear them as an amulet. In other parts of the world, they’re regarded as bad luck. Some believe that the flower will stop hens from laying eggs.
- In Arts and Literature
Did you know that the earliest reference to the daffodil can be traced back to the 6th century B.C. writings of the Prophet Mohammed? Daffodils have featured in several popular literary works, including The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare, When We Were Very Young by A.A. Milne, and I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud by William Wordsworth, to name just a few.
The Daffodil Flower in Use Today
If you want to add a nice visual accent to your landscape, think of daffodils. They’re perfect for decorating borders and gardens, but if you don’t have a backyard space, they can easily be grown in containers. In fact, the ‘New Baby’ variety looks wonderful in hanging baskets due to its tiny flowers and intoxicating scent, and can be placed indoors, on the porch, patio or deck.
Daffodils are synonymous with spring, making them the perfect wedding flower for bouquets and centerpieces. More than that, it signifies the blossoming of the marriage bond. In Chinese culture, it’s believed to bring good luck when the flower blooms during the Chinese New Year.
When to Give Daffodils
Daffodil is the March birth flower and the 10th wedding anniversary bloom, which can add a lovely personal touch to your gifts. Since they symbolize new beginnings, they’re great to be gifted to friends and family embarking on a new journey or making a career change, whether it’s a job promotion or graduation.
The bright yellow blooms of daffodils mark the arrival of the spring season. These flowers are symbolic of fresh starts, beauty and admiration, bringing a dose of inspiration in your life.