1. Family: Amaryllidaceae J.St.-Hil.
    1. Narcissus L.

      1. This genus is accepted, and is native to Europe, Africa, Alabama and Asia-Temperate.


    Plant of the Month

    Species Profile
    Plant of the monthHorticulture

    A classified list of daffodil cultivars was first published by the Royal Horticultural Society in 1908, with a basic grouping of cultivars. This evolved until a major revision in 1950, which has since been further refined.

    The current system consists of 13 divisions classifying all daffodil cultivars and species, along with a colour-coding system. Each species and cultivar has a code, consisting of a number and one or more letters depending on whether the trumpet (corona) is a single colour or multiple colours. For example, the cultivar ‘Avalanche’ is described as 8W-Y. This means it is in Division 8 (Tazetta cultivars – those with 3–20 fragrant flowers, with spreading tepals, per stem) and that the tepals are white and the trumpet is yellow. Division 13 contains all the botanical species, wild variants and natural hybrids.

    Pollination of Narcissus

    Narcissus flowers are predominantly pollinated by insects and fall into three groups:

    • ‘ Daffodil’ form – bee-pollinated, where the bees completely enter the broad flowers searching for nectar and/or pollen.
    • ‘ Paperwhite’ form – where long-tongued insects such as hawk moths or sphinx moths, some long-tongued bees and flies, are primarily seeking nectar. The narrow basal tube allows only the insect’s proboscis in to search for nectar at the bottom. Long-tongued bees cannot reach the nectar, so just collect pollen.
    • ‘ Triandrous’ form – the pendant flowers exclude moths while long-tongued solitary bees can forage for both pollen and nectar. The large trumpet allows the bees to crawl in, but the narrow basal tube means they have to probe for nectar.

    Narcissus Conservation

    Five species of Narcissus are currently listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) and their existence is threatened in the wild. Kew scientists and horticulturists are working to safeguard the future of these species by collecting seed for ex situ cultivation and seed banking. Recent trips (2013–2014) by Kit Strange and Dr Anna Trias-Blasi saw the collection of 34 herbarium specimens and 36 living plants belonging to eight different Narcissus species. The plants will become part of the display collection.

    Introduction to Narcissus

    Narcissus is a genus in the Amaryllidaceae, the family which includes snowdrops (Galanthus), snowflakes (Leucojum) and amaryllis (Hippeastrum). The common name for all Narcissus species is daffodil, or jonquil. There are around 50 species of Narcissus but more than 15,000 cultivars, with around 500 of these in commercial production. Dr Peter Brandham, former Kew staff member, had a hand in Narcissus-breeding. They typically flower from late winter through to late spring, depending on the species, cultivar and, of course, the weather!

    Narcissus has a mainly Mediterranean distribution with a centre of diversity in the Iberian Peninsula (Spain, Portugal, Andorra and Gibraltar). It is a perennial, bulb-forming genus with linear leaves. The ‘dry’ bulbs we plant in the autumn are a dormant form of the plant and are composed of roots, stem and leaves.

    Botany of Narcissus

    The classification of Narcissus is complex. The species hybridize easily, naturalise readily, and have been extensively cultivated, bred and selected.

    The basic structure of a flower consists of four whorls, or layers. From the outside-in they are: sepals, petals, stamens (pollen-producing), and carpels (contain ovaries). When the sepals and petals are indistinguishable they are called tepals. This is the case in Narcissus. However, the trumpet (corona) is neither a petal nor a tepal, so what is it botanically speaking?

    Detailed anatomical and molecular studies using Narcissus bulbocodium have shown that the trumpet is stamen-like and is distinct from the normal floral whorls. They also found that the tepals, stamens and carpels form first, and the trumpet structure follows.

    Narcissus at Kew

    The genus Narcissus is grown across the Gardens. The majority of the species are represented, but only a tiny fraction of all cultivars are grown here. The Davies Alpine House, Rock Garden and Mediterranean Garden showcase the species, with cultivars predominating where they are naturalised in turf or in ornamental plantings. Many of the species you see growing come from material collected by Kew staff on expeditions.

    Narcissus pseudonarcissus (Lent lily) is one of the earliest species to flower at Kew and its first date of flowering is recorded each year. The study of the timing of flowering is called phenology. In 2016 it was already in flower by 2 January – the earliest recorded. The average first flowering date for this species at Kew since 2000 is 29 January.



    Found In:

    Afghanistan, Alabama, Albania, Algeria, Austria, Baleares, Belgium, Canary Is., China Southeast, Corse, Cyprus, East Aegean Is., Egypt, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Kriti, Lebanon-Syria, Libya, Morocco, Netherlands, Palestine, Portugal, Romania, Sardegna, Sicilia, Sinai, Spain, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Yugoslavia

    Introduced Into:

    Arkansas, Azores, Bermuda, British Columbia, Bulgaria, California, Connecticut, Czechoslovakia, Falkland Is., Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Ireland, Kentucky, Korea, Louisiana, Madeira, Maine, Maryland, Masachusettes, Mexico Central, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Brunswick, New Jersey, New South Wales, New York, New Zealand North, New Zealand South, Newfoundland, Norfolk Is., North Carolina, Ohio, Ontario, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Québec, Rhode I., South Australia, South Carolina, Tadzhikistan, Tasmania, Tennessee, Texas, Transcaucasus, Turkey-in-Europe, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Himalaya, Western Australia, Wisconsin

    Narcissus L. appears in other Kew resources:

    First published in Sp. Pl.: 289 (1753)

    Accepted in:

    • [1] (2009) Folia Botanica Extremadurensis 4: 15-31
    • [2] (2008) Plant Systematics and Evolution 275: 109-132
    • [3] Kington, S. (1998) The International Daffodil Register and Classified List 1998 . The Royal Horticultural Society, London


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