Flora: Narcissus pseudonarcissus - Wild Daffodil - Jonquille - Osterglocke

Today's Flora-post should be a spring greeting, but due to the cold and dull weather it is rather meant as a spring invocation. This contribution is about the wild daffodil (Jonquilles in french, Osterglocken in german, Narcissus pseudonarcissus in latin). The literal translation of the german name actually means "easter bell" and at least here in Europe it is a typical spring flower that is mostly known from gardens and flower shops.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug Wild daffodil field in the Vosges mountains, GérardmerFrance

It may come as a surprise that the wild form of the daffodils look very similar to the cultivated varieties in your garden or vase. The original home of the wild daffodil is Spain and Portugal, where many different species occur in the wild. From Iberia, wild daffodils have migrated east- and northwards to middle Europe and to England. In central Europe, wild daffodils have become a rare sight in many places, but in some locations in Europe they are very abundant and color meadows in yellow during spring time. Since daffodils are so popular in gardens all over the world, "escaped" plants have established populations also outside of their original home range. For example, naturalized daffodils are found in the Australia, New Zealend and the USA. A year ago we drove through the Vosges mountains of France in the hope of discovering "true" wild daffodils. In particular the city of Gérardmer is known as a wild daffodil hotspot. In spring, these impressive flowers abound in the meadows around this little town and form yellow carpets. We were lucky that the Fêtes des Jonquilles festival was not celebrated last year, because millions of flowers are picked for this event. However, the festival will be celebrated next weekend, on April 14th (the celebration takes place every other year).

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A bunch of wild daffodils in  the Vosges mountains near GérardmerFrance

Narcissus pseudonarcissus belongs to the family of the Amaryllidaceae, which also comprises the Amaryllis featured in an earlier blog post. All Narcissus species are perennial plants that hibernate as a bulb, form lanceolate leaves and display large flowers with a distinctive trumpet (corona). In particular in Spain and Portugal, many sub-species are distinguished, some of which are very rare. In contrast to the most commonly cultivated daffodil, the wild daffodil usually has pale yellow flowers with a dark yellow trumpet.

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From the side, the long and dark yellow corona of Narcissus pseudonarcissus flowers is particularly impressive.

Besides their use as garden plants and cut flowers, daffodils are noteworthy for their toxin production. You can even observe this at home with a daffodil bouquet from your flower shop: The water in the vase should stay clear and clean much longer than with other types of plants because secreted toxins prevent bacteria and fungi from growing. However, these poisonous substances may also harm other flowers within a bouquet and therefore you have to be careful which plants you combine with daffodils or pretreat your daffodils (let them in a bucket of water before adding them to other plants). The toxins of the daffodil belong to the class of the alkaloids and are mainly synthesized in the bulb and also in the leaves. These substances cause skin irritations and itching and can even be deadly when ingested in certain quantities. Wild daffodils contain for example galantamine and lycorine. Galantamine, which is found in daffodils and related plant species, is particularly interesting, because it is registered as a treatment of certain forms of dementia and Alzheimer. However, galantamine can be synthesized chemically and does not have to be extracted from plants.

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The deep corona of the wild daffodil flowers are a popular hiding place for all kinds of insects - in this particular flower a ladybeetle settled. (only temporarily though - it left immediately after this photographs has been taken). 

2013/04/07 by Florian Freimoser
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