Saturday, March 28, 2015

Daffodil, Narcissus, or Jonquil?

At dawn
At dawn I cut daffodils from my snowy meadow and brought them indoors to save them from frostbite, and they rewarded me by filling the room with their sweet scent. What a strange name, “daffodils.” I looked it up.

Native to Spain and North Africa, their name comes from “asphodel,” a legendary flower said to grow in the Elysian Fields—an ancient Greek afterlife of flowery meadows. The“d” in front might come from “de” in Dutch or Saxon. De+asphodel morphed into “daffodil.” Language will do that.

At noon
They’re also called “narcissi” because a young man, Narcissus (a name related to “narcotic”), spent 24/7 by a pond admiring his own reflection. He wasted away, died there, and was changed by the gods into a flower. These, all-yellow with big coronas, are Narcissus hispanicus. Enough Polish vodka and squinting and the blooms do kind of resemble those male models in the magazine ads wearing nothing but tighty-whiteys.

Also on the property are smaller Narcissus poeticus, their short trumpets hemmed in orange; and Narcissus pseudonarcissus (wild daffodil) its bright-yellow trumpet backed by pale-yellow petals.

Some call these flowers jonquils. That name comes from, and I quote, “modern Latin jonquilla or French jonquille, from Spanish junquillo, diminutive of junco, from Latin juncus ‘rush, reed.’”

I’ll have to return outside and identify all the types of narcissus—their generic name—faithfully growing here each spring. The bulbs are poisonous, so moles, voles and squirrels don’t eat them and deer don’t eat the flowers. A daffodil-bulb extract called galantamine is used to treat Alzheimer’s disease.

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