It’s not even March, yet clusters of daffodils are already starting to bloom, heralding spring’s approach with their glorious golden fanfare.
As the national flower of Wales, daffodils are synonymous with St David’s Day, March 1st, when blooms are proudly pinned to the lapels of our Welsh neighbours. But this cheerful flower has had a long and meandering history, and has meant very different things to different cultures along the way.
The daffodil, or narcissus, started its life back in ancient Greece, finding its way into gardens as early as 300 BC. The Greek botanist and philosopher, Theophrastus, listed many early varieties of narcissus in his work, Enquiry into Plants, and there’s also the famous Greek myth which recounts the fate of a young hunter called Narcissus. He fell in love with his own reflection in a pool, so the story goes, and unable to tear himself away from the beauty of the image, he wasted away, until eventually a narcissus grew in his place.
Daffodils are still associated with beauty and admiration, as well as holding a lover in high-regard, and in some Middle Eastern cultures, the flower is believed to be an aphrodisiac. (And, rather less romantically, a cure for baldness!)
The plant has been used to treat all sorts of complaints across the centuries, from strains and painful joints to gout and epilepsy, although I wouldn’t recommend concocting your own home remedies with the plant as parts of it, particularly the bulbs, are poisonous. Which is perhaps why the flower has also had more negative associations. The medieval Europeans, for example, believed that seeing a daffodil droop was an omen of death.
These days, the daffodil is symbolic of spring, with all its connotations of hope and rebirth. It is widely-believed that daffodils are lucky and gifting them is said to ensure happiness, so long as they’re presented in a bunch, for a single bloom brought into the home is thought to presage misfortune.
For me, daffodils embody joy. I really can’t think of a more cheerful flower, and as they begin to adorn the landscape, now is the perfect time to take a deep breath, smile, and usher in the spring which, according to the meteorological calendar at least, arrives this week.
Bring on the trumpets! 🌞