Daffodil 101

  • Posted on 06/29/2016 by Laura

The daffodil is a representation of uncertainty, chivalry, respect, unrequited love, returning of affection, rebirth, and new beginnings. That’s a lot of differentiating meanings! The plant’s genus name, Narcissus, reveals much about the flower’s history and meaning. 

Meanings

In the West the daffodil symbolizes vanity, while in the East it symbolizes wealth and good fortune. Additionally in the West, the daffodil is often used in Lenten celebrations and Easter.

In Persian literature the daffodil has become a symbol for beautiful eyes.

Many countries have their own perceptions of what they believe the daffodil represents. In Japan the daffodil represents mirth and joyousness. In France it is a sign of hope.

Legends

Though the daffodil is native to woodland area in southern Europe—specifically Spain and Portugal—it’s been told that Romans brought the daffodil flower over to the British, as they believed the flowers possessed a healing agent. In reality, the daffodil’s sap has crystals that irritate the skin.

Narcissus, the beautiful hunter from Greek mythology, gives his name to this beauteous flower. A mountain nymph by the name of Echo fell in love with Narcissus. Narcissus rejects her, causing distraught Echo to uncontrollably weep. All that was left of her in the end was her voice. This story however did not really end in Narcissus’ favor either. Nemesis, goddess of retribution, was not pleased with outcome and so lured Narcissus to a lake. Being the narcissist that Narcissus is, he became mesmerized by his own reflection. He fell into the water and became the daffodil, as we know it. The mythology goes on to say that the flower seems to be looking down because Narcissus wouldn’t remove his gaze from his own reflection. From this legend, the daffodil has come to also symbolize conceit and egotism.

The daffodil is seen again in Greek mythology when Persephone is snatched away and taken to the Underworld as she gathers together the flowers.

In China, there is a legend that if a daffodil bulb comes into full at the start of the New Year, it will bring good luck.

In Wales, legend tells that the person who finds the first daffodil bloom of the year will be blessed with more gold than silver in that upcoming year.

Arabians thought the flower was an aphrodisiac. And quite curiously, they also thought the flower could cure baldness.

Despite the daffodil’s natural droopiness, medieval Europeans believed that if a daffodil drooped it was an omen of impending death.

Uses

Daffodil bulbs produce toxic crystals that deter animal pests such as deer and rodents. The poison can even cause wilting of other nearby flowers unless cut stems are treated to do otherwise.

While the daffodil is the national flower of Wales, it is also oftentimes used as a symbol in cancer charities. In spite of the flower’s toxicity, it has been used in traditional medicine as a treatment for cancer. Daffodils are also used to create a drug that combats the effects of Alzheimer’s. 

Essential oils can be extracted from the daffodil that can be used in creating perfumes and potpourri. The oil also can be used on its own to reduce stress and promote relaxation. Using the oil too much however can cause vomiting and headaches.

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