by Ray Allen
Gardeners know the real name of the daffodil is Narcissus. But do you know the story? In Greek mythology, Narcissus was a young man so handsome the Gods forbade him to view his own image. One day, he got involved wih a nymph named Echo, and couldn't resist a quick glimpse of his face in a pond. That did it. The Gods turned him into a Daffodil. It's all in our History of the Daffodil.
Terrible things happened to Echo, too. Centuries later, Linnaeus, who designed our botanical naming system, chose a certain wild daffodil species as the "Poet's Daffodil"--Narcissus poeticus.
He must have decided that this was the original one that the ancient poets were writing about. In any case, he gave this particular daffodil all kinds of fame.
Today, unlike some of the original wild species of daffodils which are extinct and forgott
en, the Poet's Daffodil rolls on. It is still one of the most popular. Poet's daffodils are the ones that are full size, bloom early, and have snow white petals and a very small central cup in yellow, ringed with red. The most popular version today is called "Actaea
" (left), and one common name many gardeners know is "Old Pheasant's Eye", a reference to the colorful "eye" or central cup. There is also a "Double Poet's Daffodil",
which was introduced way back in 1601.
Visit the "Valley of the Narcissi"
And where are these famous wildflowers found? One place is in the Ukraine. There, the government has set aside hundreds of acres in a beautiful valley where the wild Poet's Daffodil still carpets the ground every spring. The photos are incredible. Take a look.
Some things never change. Every now and then we all meet a handsome guy with a "narcissus complex." So if you think you're beautiful, don't spend too much time in front of the mirror.