Cluster of yellow daffodils

Narcissus

Daffodils

Family: Amaryllidaceae
Other common names: Նարգիզ (Armenian), 水仙属 (Chinese simplified), 水仙屬 (Chinese traditional), narcis (Czech), nartsissid (Estonian), narsissit (Finnish), narzissen (German), nάρκισσος (Greek), נרקיסים (Hebrew), narcisi (Italian), スイセン属 (Japanese), 수선화속 (Korean), narcizas (Lithuanian), نرگس (Persian), narcyz (Polish), Нарцисс (Russian), narcisos (Spanish), narcisser (Swedish), nergis (Turkish)

A sure sign that spring is in full swing, daffodils are a common sight across the UK during the early part of the year.

Even though they are not in the same family, daffodils are often referred to as 'lent lilies' as they tend to bloom during the Lent period, between Ash Wednesday and Easter.

Originally from Europe and Northern African, daffodils have been introduced to many countries and can be found growing across the world.

While there are 36 species of daffodil, their popularity as an ornamental plant has led to the creation of over 26,000 cultivated varieties.

Daffodil plants have a single flower on a long green stalk, with green leaves growing from the base of the stem. The flowers have yellow or white petals surrounding a trumpet, which can be a similar or contrasting colour. Daffodils grow between 5 to 80cm tall. The flowers tend to bend downwards, but sometimes face upward. The flowers grow from bulbs which lie dormant between summer to the late winter.

Read the scientific profile on Narcissus

Cultural

The daffodil is the national flower of Wales where it is known as Cennin Pedr — 'Peter’s Leek' in Welsh.

Daffodils inspired the famous poem I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud by William Wordsworth.

The daffodil is the symbol for a number of cancer charities around the world, including Marie Curie UK.

Health

A substance extracted from daffodil bulbs, galantamine, is used as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.

Extracts from daffodils have been used as traditional medicines for a wide variety of diseases, including tumours, for thousands of years.

Materials and fuels

Daffodils have been grown commercially since the 19th century for sale as ornamental plants.

  • The wild daffodil is a member of the Amaryllidaceae family which also contains Agapanthus, Alliums, like onions and garlic, and Galanthus, like snowdrops.

  • The scientific name of the daffodil genus, Narcissus, is believed to come from the Greek myth of Narcissus who fell in love with his reflection in a pool of water. The nodding head of the daffodil is said to symbolise Narcissus gazing at his reflection.

  • All species of daffodil are poisonous to humans — the leaves, bulb and stem contain the highly toxic chemical lycorine.

  • In the 1930s, a 'Daffodil Special' train service run by Great Western Railway took Londoners to the Gloucestershire-Herefordshire border to see and buy wild daffodils (Narcissus pseudonarcissus).

Native: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Austria, Baleares, Belgium, Canary Is., China Southeast, Corsica, Cyprus, East Aegean Is., Egypt, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Crete, Lebanon-Syria, Libya, Morocco, Netherlands, Palestine, Portugal, Romania, Sardinia, Sicily, Sinai, Spain, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Yugoslavia
Introduced: Alabama, Arkansas, Azores, Bermuda, British Columbia, Bulgaria, California, Connecticut, Czechoslovakia, Falkland Is., Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Ireland, Kentucky, Korea, Kuril Is., Louisiana, Madeira, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, 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, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Himalaya, Western Australia, Wisconsin
Habitat:

Woodlands, grasslands, riverbanks, and marshes

Kew Gardens

A botanic garden in southwest London with the world’s most diverse living plant collection.

Location

Great Broad Walk Borders, Temple of Aeolus, Natural Area

View map of Kew Gardens
Best time to see
Flowers: Feb, Mar, Apr, May
Foliage: Feb, Mar, Apr, May

Wakehurst

Kew’s wild botanic garden in Sussex that has over 500 acres of plants from around the world and is home to the Millennium Seed Bank.

Location

Mansion Pond

View map of Wakehurst
Best time to see
Flowers: Feb, Mar, Apr, May
Foliage: Feb, Mar, Apr, May

Other plants

Read & watch

Shop

Buying something from the Kew Online Shop supports our vital science work.

The geographical areas mentioned on this page follow the World Geographical Scheme for Recording Plant Distributions (WGSRPD) developed by Biodiversity Information Standards (TDWG).