Springtime’s Flowering Bursts of Sun

In the language of flowers, daffodils stand for rebirth and new beginnings. As these golden arrays of sunshine peek up from underneath the ground, they signal the arrival of warmer temperatures and longer and brighter days to come.

First popularized in the U.S. as bulbs brought by European settlers, daffodils number among America’s most popular flowers. However, daffodils have been noted in history since the earliest times and were originally from areas around the Mediterranean. Cultivated versions gained a foothold in northern Europe from the 17th century onward. Indeed, a daffodil is the national symbol of Wales. These cheerful plants are perennials, spreading forth a bright burst of color on an annual basis.

In regard to medicinal purposes, the daffodil (or narcissus, as it’s known in a medical context), has some important uses. One of the alkaloids it contains is the basis of the drug galantamine, a chemical used in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Other alkaloids from the plant have been used as treatments for cancer in days past. It is this association, along with their symbolism of hope and rebirth, that has led to the American Cancer Society selling daffodils as a fundraising measure. Of interest to gardeners is the fact that naturally occurring poisons in daffodils may offer protection against animals that might otherwise eat them. Of course, humans should be cautious not to consume daffodils. Although not fatal, some unfortunate individuals have become very ill after mistaking the leaves for leeks and the bulbs for edible tubers.