Narcissus L.


Probably derived from the greek narke – numbness, in relation to its narcotic properties. In Greek mythology Narcissus fell in love with his own reflection in a pool and was turned into a lily by the Gods.

Will and Chris Ashburner, Roger Spencer

Perennial herbs with tunicated bulbs and fibrous roots. Leaves deciduous, basal, 1-few per bulb, cylindric to flat, often waxy blue, sheathed at the base. Flowers solitary to clustered, usually with a single membranous spathe, sometimes fragrant. Individual flowers bisexual, regular, stalked, erect or nodding. Perianth with 6 lobes, a prominent tube, and a corona that has no stamens attached, usually white, yellow or orange, rarely green, often bicoloured. Stamens 6 in 2(1) whorls attached at different levels of the perianth tube. Ovary inferior, 3-chambered, each chamber with numerous ovules, placentation axile. Fruit a capsule; seeds angled, black.

A long cultivated genus with many cultivars and hybrids and a high degree of naturalisation, especially in Europe, where garden escapes have bred with wild populations to obscure the true wild types, thus complicating both the taxonomy and natural distribution information.

Botanically the genus is divided into 7 sections: Serotini (inc. N. serotinus); Tazzetae (N. tazetta, N. papyraceus); Narcissus (N. poeticus); Jonquillae (N. jonquilla, N. requienii); Ganymedes (N. triandrus); Bulbocodii (N. bulbocodium, N. hadreanthus, N. cantabricus); Pseudonarcissi (N. pseudonarcissus, N. minor, N. asturiensis,N. cyclamineus). Several species have been important in the development of the popular garden daffodils. N. pseudonarcissus is a parent of the trumpet and large cupped daffodils with flat perianths; N. cyclamineus the parent of those with reflexed perianths and solitary flowers; N. tazetta and N. jonquilla parents of those with umbels of small, often fragrant, flowers with flat perianths; N. triandrus those with clusters of relatively few but large flowers with cup-shaped coronas and reflexed perianths. Daffodils were cultivated from the earliest times of gardening, first as species then as improved forms or curiosities such as doubles. The publication of Amaryllidaceae by Dean Herbert in 1837 coincided with the explosion of interest in 'florists' flowers' and the industrial revolution. Hybridisation of the species N. pseudonarcissus, N. bicolor, N. poeticus, N. hispanicus and N. obvallaris produced the diversity of garden plants on which subsequent breeders have worked. Herbert's hybridising work was continued by Edward Leeds, Peter Barr and William Backhouse (whose 'Empress' and 'Emperor' can still be seen in old gardens).The Reverend G.H. Engleheart is considered the father of the modern daffodil and his 50 years of breeding from the 1880s established many of the important breeding lines. In 1899 the yellow trumpet 'King Alfred' was introduced and the popularity of daffodils as a garden plant was sealed.

Daffodils were introduced into Australia in the earliest days of settlement. Many of these first imports can be seen around old abandoned homesteads and mining areas. The most likely to be encountered is N. pseudonarcissus 'Telemonius Plenus', a short yellow daffodil with the inside of the trumpet doubled. Others include: the sweetly-scented Narcissus ×odorus 'Campernelle', which is a small yellow multi-flowered type with a star-like form; 'Grand Monarch', which is a vigorous tall growing tazetta with white petals and a lemon cup; and N. italicus, a sterile early-flowered tazetta with cream star-shaped petals and a pale lemon cup. The most significant introductions of modern daffodils into Australia were made by Alister Clark of Bulla as a member of The Syndicate (a group of daffodil fanciers around the world who combined so as to purchase collections of Engleheart's newest developments). These bulbs were shared with others, in particular Leonard Buckland, a breeder from Colac. Other significant early collections were held by George Titheradge and Walter J. Smith of Riddells Creek. The breakup of Titheradge's collection enriched the Tasmanian daffodil breeding families of Jackson and Radcliffe and later Stephen Bisdee. The next generation of early breeders were West & Fell of Camperdown, H.A. Brown (whose work is continued at J.N. Hancock & Co of Menzies Creek), Hugh Dettmann of Kyneton and C. A. Nethercote of Wandin. These pioneering breeders developed daffodils that were more suited to Australia's climate. Unique forms and colours were developed in isolation from Northern Hemisphere breeders.The competitive exhibiting of daffodils at horticultural shows began on the 24th August 1893 at the Great Daffodil Show held at the Melbourne Town Hall and continues to this day. In the early days extensive newspaper reporting was given over to the results of these shows and the participants.

Although popular in Australia the daffodil does not grow well in warm and tropical regions and new bulbs may have to be planted each year. In cool districts, however, they perform well and are grown in a range of garden situations from lawns to borders and rockeries: they are also excellent for pot culture and as cut flowers.

Daffodil Societies: Victorian Daffodil Society INC., C/- Secretary Graham Brumley, 101 Fairy Dell Road, Monbulk VIC 3793. Ph. (03) 9756 7427. E-mail Daffodil Association of NSW/ACT INC., C/- Daphne Davis, Unit 20/70-76 Madigan St, Hackett ACT 2602. Ph. (02) 6262 5462. E-mail Daffodil &Bulb Society of WA INC., C/- Mrs J. Jamieson, 11 Bromley Place, Kingsley WA 6026. Ph. (08) 9409 1156. E-mail Tasmanian Daffodil Council INC., C/- Mr Kevin Crowe, 103 Carella St, Howrah Tasmania 7018. Ph. (03) 6247 8226. E-mail

Cultivars: Over 25000 cultivars have been registered with the Royal Horticultural Society (London), which is the International Cultivar Registration Authority for the genus. Most of these were derived in the UK, NZ, Ireland and USA but about 20% have originated in Australia. The RHS classification, which is based on the form and colour of the flowers, recognises 12 Divisions. Within each division they are further distinguished by code letters for their colours – W (white), G (green), Y (yellow), P (pink), O (orange), R (red), such that the different parts of the flower can be specifically colour coded. Thus 2 YW-WWY indicates a Division 2 daffodil with with mainly yellow petals having a white base and a medium cup having a white eye zone and midzone and a yellow rim.

  • 1 Trumpet. 1 flower per stem;corona as long as or longer than the perianth segments.
  • 2 Large cupped. 1 flower per stem; corona more than one third but not equal to length of perianth segments.
  • 3 Small-cupped. 1 flower per stem; corona not more than one third length of perianth segments.
  • 4 Double-flowered. Flower parts numerous (from any of the other divisions)
  • 5 Triandrus hybrids. Flowers nodding, 1 or more, white or yellow; corona mostly cup-shaped; perianth reflexed, silky.
  • 6 Cyclamineus hybrids. Flowers nodding, solitary, yellow, with narrow corona and reflexed perianth.
  • 7 Jonquilla hybrids. Flowers 1 or more, short-cupped and perianth flat, sometimes fragrant.
  • 8 Tazetta hybrids. Flowers 1 or more, small, fragrant; corona short; perianth flat, often crinkled.
  • 9 Poeticus hybrids.Flowers 1, perianth glistening white with small, flat cup usually yellow or green with a red edge.
  • 10 Split coronas. Cultivars with the coronas split for at least one third their length.
  • 11 Bulbocodium hybrids.
  • 12 Miscellaneous. Mostly Bulbocodium hybrids.
  • 13 Wild species and hybrids. Including all those thought to have originated in the wild.

Australian raised cultivars: The following are cultivars of merit, either historically or for their breeding significance, or for current popularity.

  • DIVISION ONE ‘Akkad’ 1 Y-Y, ‘Aldabra’ 1 W-P, ‘Ansett’ 1 Y-Y, ‘Bridal Day’ 1 W-W,‘Camberwell King’ 1 Y-Y, ‘Compute’ 1 Y-Y, ‘Creamed Honey’ 1 Y-W,‘Dawnglow’ 1 W-P, ‘Dolomite’ 1 W-W, ‘Echuca’ 1 W-Y, ‘Giltol’ 1 W-Y, ‘Glenara Caramel’ 1 W-WWY, ‘Golden Empire’ 1 Y-Y, ‘Golden Robin’ 1 Y-Y, ‘Heir Apparen’t 1 Y-Y, ‘Helsal’ 1W-Y, ‘Lyndale Gold’ 1Y-Y,‘Mortlake’ 1 Y-Y,‘Oboe’ 1 W-Y, ‘Odin’ 1 Y-Y, ‘Pink O’Dawn’ 1 W-P, ‘Rheban White’ 1 W-W, ‘Ristin’ 1 Y-Y,‘Ruddynosey’ 1 Y-O, ‘Rus Holland’ 1 Y-W,
  • DIVISION TWO‘A.B. Cashmore’ 2 W-Y,‘Accommodate’ 2 Y-Y,‘Amy’ 2 W-P, ‘Ann Cameron’ 2 W-P, ‘August Pink’ 2 W-P, ‘Binkie’ 2 Y-Y, ‘Birdie’ 2 W-WWP, ‘Bliss’ 2 W-W, ‘Blodwen’ 2 W-OOR,‘Bright Lass’ 2 Y-O, ‘Chillagoe’ 2 W-W, ‘Dame Edith’ 2 W-P, ‘Del Rose’ 2 W-P, ‘Ellimatta Gold’ 2 Y-Y, ‘Ethel Breen’ 2 W-P, ‘Exotic Pink’ 2 W-P, ‘First Frost’ 2 W-W, ‘Goforit’ 2 Y-O, ‘Gunsynd’ 2 Y-O, ‘Hassle’ 2 WY,‘ Honey Hush’ 2 Y-P,‘Hugh Dettmann’ 2 W-P, ‘Ian Shankley’ 2 Y-POO, ‘Isabella’ 2 W-W, ‘Jean Hood' 2 W-YYR, ‘Joseph Banks’ 2 Y-YYO, ‘Killara Pink’ 2 W-P, ‘Lady Diana’ 2 W-W, ‘Mabel Taylor’ 2W-YYP, ‘Malvern Gold’ 2 Y-Y, ‘Mirrabooka’ 2 W-W,‘Mrs Oscar Ronalds’ 2 W-P,‘My Word’ 2 W-P, ‘Pillar Box’ 2 Y-OOR, ‘Pink _’un’ 2 W-YYP, ’ Pink a-dell’ 2 W-P, ‘Pinkie’ 2 W-P, ‘Posai’ 2 Y-P, ‘Proska’ 2 Y-Y,‘Red Gleam’ 2 Y-R, ‘Redlands’ 2 Y-R, ‘Rhapsody’ 2 W-W, ‘Rheban Red’ 2 Y-O, ‘Rubra’ 2 W-YYO, ‘Sarn’ 2 W-P, ‘Scorcher’ 2 Y-O, ‘Sea Change’ 2 Y-P, ‘Shirley Anne’ 2 W-WWP, ‘Sicily’ 2 W-P, ‘Toorak Gold’ 2 YY, ‘Truganini’ 2 Y-O, ‘Walter J. Smith’ 2 W-WWY.
  • DIVISION THREE ‘Botlar’ 3 Y-O,‘Branwen’ 3 W-Y, ‘Calleen’ 3 W-Y,‘Coppertone’ 3 O-R,‘Datsun’ 3 W-WWO,‘Gowo’ 3 W-YYO, ‘Langley Dandy’ 3 W-YYO, ‘Lynette Sholl’ 3 W-OOR,‘Marilyn’ 2 WYYO,‘ Mrs David Calvert’ 3 W-GRR,‘Our Darling’ 3 W-WWR,‘Placid’ 3 W-Y, ‘Polar Imp’ 3 W-W, ‘Possum’ 3 W-P, ‘Pzaz’ 3 Y-O, ‘Red Hen’ 3 Y-R, ‘Seafire’ 3 W GYR,‘Spring Festival’ 3 W-YYR.
  • DIVISION FOUR ‘Alf Ladson’ 4 W-O,‘Amora’ 4 W-P, ‘Billyo’ 4 Y-O, ‘Boastabout’ 4 W-O, ‘Bragabout’ 4 W-O, ‘Cointreau’ 4 Y-O, ‘Foible’ 4 W-Y, ‘Fortescue’ 4 W-R, ‘Frenzi’ 4 Y-O, ‘Glowing
  • Red’ 4 W-R, ‘Huon Chief’ 4 W-Y, ‘Huon Lass’ 4 W-P, ‘Huon Pride’ 4 W-W, ‘Ladson’s Pride’ 4 W-R, ‘Lawali’ 4 W-P, ‘Primrose Cream’ 4 W-Y, ‘Ragbag’ 4 W-O, ‘Rager’ 4 W-O, ‘Sahib’ 4 W-P, ‘Tasberg’ 4 W-Y, ‘Tasfire’ 4 W-R, ‘Tasgem’ 4 Y-Y, ‘Tasrose’ 4 W-P, ‘Tequila’ 4 Y-O, ‘Ulster Bride’ 4 W-O, 'Wybalena’ 4 W-O.
  • DIVISION FIVE ‘Agnes Webster’ 5 W-W, ‘Angels Breath’ 5 Y-Y, ‘Bunnies’ 5 W-W, ‘Fairy Cup’ 5 W-Y, ‘Laura’ 5 W-W, ‘Nightlight’ 5 W-W, ‘Tweedledee’ 5 Y-Y.
  • DIVISION SIX ‘Abracadabra’ 6 Y-Y, ‘Glenbrook Mini-cycla’ 6 Y-Y, ‘Peggy Low’ 6 W-Y, ‘Perchance’ 6 W-YPP, ‘Slip’ry’ 6 W-W, ‘Snook’ 6 Y-Y,‘Swagger’ 6 W-W, ‘The Little Gentlemen’ 6 Y-Y.
  • DIVISION SEVEN ‘Binkie Bell’ 7 Y-W, ‘Fenben’ 7 Y-Y, ‘Gertrude Nethercote’ 7 Y-Y, ‘Gold Sprite’ 7 Y-Y, ‘Jackie’ 7 Y-Y, ‘Jonno’ 7 Y-Y, ‘Little Missus’ 7 Y-Y,’ Moon-fairies’ 7 Y-Y, ‘Sighing’ 7 W-YPP.
  • DIVISION EIGHT ‘Highfield Beauty’ 8 Y-YYO, ‘Little Hobo’ 8 W-R, ‘Pleiades ‘8 W-Y,‘Moon Raker‘ 8 Y-YYO.
  • DIVISION NINE ‘Banjo Patterson’ 9 W -GYR, ‘Henry Lawson’ 9 W-GYR, ‘Ringer’ 9 W-GYR.
  • DIVISION ELEVEN ‘Bitter Orange’ 11 Y-O, ‘Blitz’ 11 W-Y, ‘Gold Split’ 11 Y-Y,‘Hey Presto’ 11 WYYO, ‘Ocean Rain’ 11 W-Y, ‘Twotees’ 11 W-P/W, ‘Zombie’ 11 W-Y.
  • DIVISION TWELVE ‘Fyno’ 12 W-W, ‘Glenbrook Ta-Julia’ 12 Y-Y, ‘Kholmes’ 12 W-W, ‘Orclus’ 12 WW,’ Smarple’ 12 W-W,’ Spoirot’ 12 W-W.

Popular overseas bred Daffodils: ‘King Alfred ‘1 Y-Y,‘Mount Hood’ 1 W-W,‘Spellbinder’ 1 Y-W,‘Accent’ 2 W-P,‘Camelot’ 2 Y-Y, ‘Daydream’ 2 Y-W,‘Ice Follies’ 2 W-W,‘Pink Charm’ 2 W-WWP,‘Professor Einstein’ 2 W-R,‘Redhill’ 2 W-O,‘Rosslare’ 2 Y-YOO, ‘Amor’ 3 W-YYO, ’Barrett Browning’ 3 W-O,‘Acropolis’ 4 O-R,‘Dick Wilden’ 4 Y-Y,‘Double Fashion’ 4 Y-O,‘Erlicheer’ 4 W-Y,‘Ice King’ 4 W-W,‘Manly’ 4 Y-O,‘Replete’ 4 W-P,‘Tahiti’ 4 Y-R,‘April Tears’ 5 Y-Y,‘Ice Wings’ 5 W-W,‘Jetfire’ 6 Y-O,‘Petrel’ 7 W-W,‘Quail’ 7 Y-Y, ‘Geranium’ 8 W-O,‘Golden Dawn’ 8 Y-O,‘Grand Monarque’ 8 W-Y,‘Grand Soleil d’Or’ 8 Y-O, ‘Minnow’ 8 W-Y,‘Silver Chimes’ 8 W-W,‘Cum Laude’ 11 W-P,‘King Size’ 11 Y-Y,‘Lemon Beauty’ 11 W-Y, ‘Orangery’ 11 W-OOY,‘Palmares’ 11 W-P,‘Printal’ 11 W-Y,‘Tiritomba’ 11 Y-O,‘Tête-à-tête’ 12 Y-Y.

VIC: Garden of St Erth, Blackwood; Garden of J.N. Hancock & Co, Menzies Creek; Rhododendron Gardens, Olinda. Also see Spring Shows of Horticultural Societies.

Seed for species and bulbs. For cultivars double bulb scale-leaves stored in vermiculite with some attached basal plate may be effective although the resulting bulbs may take several years to reach flowering.

Cut flowers; as a source of galanthamine for the pharmaceutical industry.

Distinctive trumpet- to funnel- or cup-shaped corona; 1-2 spathes forming a tube around the flower stalks.

Probably 25-50 species from Europe, N Africa and the E Mediterranean. A few species naturalised around old homesteads in Australia.

Burbidge (1875), Bowles (1934), Gray (1955), Jefferson-Brown (1951, 1991), Fernandes (1968), Philpott (1968), Anderson (1989), Wells (1989), Blanchard (1990) in Mabberley, Garnett (1990), Hanks (2002). Periodical: Daffodil and Tulip Yearbooks, RHS (London).

The Royal Horticultural Society (London) is the international cultivar registration authority.

A key to narcissus in cultivation would be difficult and confusing because of the numerous cultivars and variable range of species available.

Source: Ashburner, W.; Ashburner, C.; Spencer, R. (2005). Narcissus. In: Spencer, R.. Horticultural Flora of South-eastern Australia. Volume 5. Flowering plants. Monocotyledons. The identification of garden and cultivated plants. University of New South Wales Press.

Hero image
kingdom Plantae
phylum   Tracheophyta
class    Magnoliopsida
superorder     Lilianae
order      Asparagales
family       Amaryllidaceae
Higher taxa
Subordinate taxa
species         Narcissus bulbocodium L.
species         Narcissus cyclamineus DC.
species         Narcissus jonquilla L.
species         Narcissus papyraceus Ker Gawl.
species         Narcissus poeticus L.
species         Narcissus pseudonarcissus L.
species         Narcissus tazetta L.
species         Narcissus triandrus L.