Dazzling Daffodils – The Herald of Spring

At last! A glorious fanfare of trumpeting daffodils is surely one of the most wonderful sights of the year. After what seems to be the longest and coldest of winters, the sunshine has finally arrived. Spring is here – bringing with it new life, fresh colours and renewed hope for the forthcoming year.

Each year this humble, happy flower heralds a new beginning – a time of awakening. Bright sunlight makes their petals and trumpets glimmer, as if newly polished.

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When the wind blows, they sway in unison; a jubilant chorus-line, brightening anywhere they choose to dance.

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The daffodil is part of the Narcissus genus, in the Amaryllis family. It is an enduring perennial plant that bursts into flower from a bulb. With selective cross breeding, there is now an astonishing variety in colour, petal formation and size.

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Their trumpets may be smooth or frilly and petals long or rounded. Colours range from burnished gold and bright yellows, to delicate custard creams….

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The smallest and most delicate in the family is the tiny jonquil, not much taller than a blade of grass; it nestles neatly alongside its tiny snowdrop neighbours.

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The Latin name is believed by many to have derived from the Greek myth of Narcissus, who became obsessed by his own reflection whilst kneeling by a pool of water. Legend says he knelt gazing at himself until he died – either by falling in the pool or by starving to death. Narcissus flowers then sprang to life on the spot. Others suggest the name may be linked to the narcotic properties of the plant.

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These charming flowers have captured the imagination of artists and provided inspiration for poets. In William Wordsworth’s famous poem, I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud; he describes them as ‘Fluttering and Dancing in the Breeze’. The author and poet A.A. Milne (most famous for creating Winnie the Poo) was inspired to write Daffadowndilly, which begins ‘She wore her yellow sun-bonnet’… In contrast, Ted Hughes’ Daffodils has a far more melancholic tone.

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The daffodil holds much symbolism. For Christians, as an Easter flower it signifies resurrection and new birth. In fact the German word for daffodils Oesterglocken is translated as Easter Bells. But in the Far East, in celebration of the Chinese New Year, the golden flower symbolises prosperity. It has also become a symbol of cancer support charities across the globe, as the uplifting flowers offer such a sense of hope.

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And of course, it is a national symbol of Wales – along with the leek – and many people wear a daffodil (or leek!) on March 1st, St David’s Day. It is likely that the daffodil became a national emblem as a result of the Welsh language itself. The Welsh for leek is Cenhinen, whereas the word for daffodil is Cenhinen Pedr – Peter’s leek. Whilst they both have a green stem and white bulb – the daffodil certainly smells better for the wearer!

Hope they make you smile….

Written by Sarah Rees

Environmental Scientist, presenter and keen wildlife photographer; Sarah is also a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. With a background in television production, she launched her online Forestwatch videos to celebrate the diversity of woodland wildlife and ancient trees.


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