, Muskogee, OK

March 20, 2014

Daffodils bring spring

The bright-colored flowers have a long history

By Molly Day
All the Dirt on Gardening

— There are 27,000 unique daffodil cultivars with flower colors from white to yellow and orange. Daffodils can be cultivated and cross-bred hundreds of ways to form delicate hybrids. Also, they can live on abandoned homesteads for 100 years without any human intervention.

The names jonquil, narcissus and daffodil are used for all the flowers in the narcissus family, since narcissus is the name of the plant genus of which they are all members. Daffodil is used as a common name for all of them.

The exception is Narcissus jonquilla, what we call jonquils, are unique from the others because they have narrow leaves, and each stem has three fragrant flowers with flat petals.

Since early history daffodils have been celebrated in song, poetry, literature and art.

In China, paperwhite daffodils, the tazettas, are grown in pebbles in shallow plates so they are in bloom for the new year where they symbolize rebirth. The earliest time tazettas were used symbolically was in the tomb of Ramses II who was buried with daffodil bulbs on his eyes.

In the Middle East, they are planted on graves where they bloom, reminding mourners of the new life to come.

In Europe, they symbolize the resurrection and churches are filled with bouquets during Lent and Easter. The Austrian Narzissenfest is the largest floral festival in that country with a daffodil queen, parade, floats and daffodil-adorned boats on local lakes.

In Medieval Christian art, the flower is used as the symbol of paradise, the triumph over physical death. Since 1990 daffodils were used as a symbol of hope for cancer patients. Begun by the Marie Curie Cancer Care charity, the daffodils for hope campaign has been adopted by the American Cancer Society.

The Daffodils’ romantic importance was firmly etched in most of our minds in school by Wordsworth’s 1802 poem which opens with the first stanza: “I wandered lonely as a Cloud, That floats on high o’er Vales and Hills, When all at once I saw a crowd, A host of dancing Dafffodils; Along the Lake, beneath the trees, Ten thousand dancing in the breeze,” etc.

When a single daffodil planted by itself becomes a clump, the additional bulbs are called daughters or clones since they will be identical to the parent bulb and flower.

When bees visit one type of daffodil flower and take that pollen to another variety of daffodil, the seeds that result from the cross-pollination will produce a completely new variation of the parents’ genes. Almost all the daffodils grown in gardens today are hybrids either of human or insect breeding through cross-pollination.

Daffodils are close relatives of amaryllis, snowdrops and clivia. What makes them different from all their relatives is their cup, designed by nature to protect their pollen from spring rain.

The mountains of Spain, Portugal, Morocco and Algeria have the most diverse collection of native species where the winters are long, cool, and moist.

In the United States there are daffodil festivals from Ore. to Fla. and most states in between. A website called Daffodil Festivals and Fields has been set up to list them all at so you can plan spring trips to Ark., Maine, Texas or Va., visiting daffodil events.

In Oklahoma there is one daffodil event so far: Daffodil Day at the Thomas Foreman Historic Home in Muskogee. A Daffodil Lawn is being planned for the Oklahoma Botanic Garden north of Tulsa.

Since Muskogee Garden Club began planting daffodils for Daffodil Day three years ago, club members planted them at their homes and Master Gardeners planted 100 at the gate to the new Chandler Road community garden.

Other groups have expressed interest in becoming part of Daffodil Day next year.

If you go

WHAT: Daffodil Day.

WHEN: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 29.

WHERE: The Thomas Foreman Historic Home, 1419 W. Okmulgee.

COST: $5 for home tour and tea.

INFORMATION: Sue Tolbert, (918) 686-6624 and Oyana Wilson, (918) 683-5380.