Thursday, 14 March 2019

A host of golden daffodils

The commonly-planted Narcissus 'Ice Follies'
- Prof Crawley reckons you'll find this in
"at least one front garden on every street"
- do you agree?
Image: M. Crawley
It's that time of year when daffodils, one of our iconic spring plants, can be seen bursting into glorious bloom. But are those ranks of yellow daffs on road verges and in municipal planting schemes the same kinds of plants that inspired Wordsworth to write his famous poem? To what extent are they "ours", i.e. native British wildflowers? Well, most of them aren't!

Pete Stroh, BSBI's Scientific Officer for England, explains: "There are over 300 Daffodil varieties recorded in the wild across Britain and Ireland, but only one is our native plant - Narcissus pseudonarcissus subsp. pseudonarcissus. And even this native has been planted extensively. But with one of its core areas of distribution in the Lake District, it is fair to say that Wordsworth's 'golden daffodils' were very much the wild and native type".

So, if we're looking at a daffodil, how do we know if it's our native daff or one of the hundreds of other varieties, hybrids and cultivars which have reached us thanks to the horticultural industry and which often become naturalised in woodlands and near gardens?

Any idea which daff this is?
Prof  Crawley's Key should help you ID it!
Image: M.  Crawley
The native daffodil is smaller than the garden varieties and has single (not double) flowers with pale petals and the 'trumpet' in the middle is golden yellow. If your daffodil doesn't look like that and you want to have a go at identifying exactly what it is, check out The Daffodil Website by national expert Prof Mick Crawley. It's also worth looking at his Twitter feed - in recent weeks he's been posting wall-to-wall daff pix with helpful ID tips.

But even if you're sure you do have a native daffodil, how do you know if you're seeing a true wild flower or a native daff that came from a garden centre? I'm afraid the answer is... you probably can't be sure.

Maybe best to just do a Wordsworth - admire these beautiful flowers, write a poem if you feel so moved, and feel glad that spring is coming!

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