Classified as a plant belonging to the Amaryllidaceae family, the Narcissus is a plant that has European origins. It produces very pleasant flowers both in appearance and perfume, but contains a dangerous substance: the alkaloid Narcisin.
How the Narcissus flowers appear
The famous flowers generated at the end of winter by this bulbous plant, which then bloom, in all their beauty, in the period from March to June, are apical and isolated. At their base there is a fairly wide spade, they have a distinct green perigonium in lacinias (ie petals) of oval shape and it should be added that in the central area of perigonium a yellow crown can be seen which has serrated ends and reddish color. There are three stamens. The flowers can have up to six petals and have been cultivated for centuries for their objective aesthetic qualities.
As we have already said the Narcissus is a bulbous plant, that is to say it develops flowers and leaves from an underground bulb, which usually has a diameter 7-8 cm long. The foliage is ribbonlike and erect. Generally Narcissus flowers have an outer and an inner crown, which has less clear colors and resembles the shape of a trumpet. As for the color of the flowers, in nature they are white or yellow, but the hybrids resulting from the patient experimentation of the growers are numerous and so on the market there are many species, which produce really suggestive orange or pink flowers.
The meaning generally attributed to the flowers of Narcissus
This flower has its own important symbolism also at a cultural level, since in the history of peoples there are some myths and legends that take precisely this flower as a metaphor for some positive or negative characteristics of the character of men and their weaknesses.
Let's start with the ancient Romans: they associated the Narcissus with the Elysian Fields, a place that the Latins identified with the Aldilà. For this elementary reason, the Narcissus flowers were deposited in large quantities on the graves of the fallen in battle, as heroes, for the defense of Rome.
In the Celtic religion they were instead the synonym of a purity unfortunately subject to the corruption of the most evil thoughts of men, capable of expressing negative feelings such as hatred or envy, to the point of rendering this beautiful flower toxic (which is not by chance, according to the way of thinking Celtic, conceals a poison in itself).
For the Chinese philosophy, instead, the Narcissus is a flower that brings good luck and therefore is used to wish a good year of prosperity to those who start a new season of study or work or even to those who start a new family life, to the point that It is common to have the image of a narcissus on the body tattooed so that it is a good omen.
The myth of Narcissus according to Ovid
Very well known is then the history that the Greek classics have handed down to us, with a young man named Narcissus son of the god Cefiso and a nymph, beautiful but marked by the terrible destiny of dying at the very moment in which he had seen his own reflected image, with the consequent moral of the fable that an excess of beauty ends up becoming a prison, a slavery and therefore a paradoxical defect that can even ruin a life.
The Italian word narcissism was also born from this evocative story.
General characteristics of the Narcissus plant
The name Narciso comes from a Greek word that means stordisco (narkаo) and therefore evokes one of its main characteristics, namely the pungent perfume of its flowers.
It has spread mainly in Europe, North Africa and some parts of Asia.
It was imported into China around the year one thousand and from that moment it has known an extraordinary fortune in every part of the world, also because it grows wild in meadows and woods, especially when exposure to sunlight is good.
The fruit produced appears as an egg-shaped capsule.
It should be noted that the bulb of this plant has a poisonous alkaloid called Narcisin, a substance of considerable danger to health: if it is taken orally it can cause gastric inflammation in animals and even more serious consequences in humans, which can risk even death, if not subjected to timely and effective treatment after taking the deadly substance.
In Wales it is known by the suggestive name of Lily of Lent, given that in this country it blooms precisely during this particular time of the year.
Narcissus flowers: Notes on the cultivation of Narcissus and its natural enemies
One of the advantages of this plant is that it can be easily grown even in a garden, provided it is not peaty. The most suitable fertilizer for Narcissus has good amounts of potassium and phosphorus. Ordinary watering operations must be abundant and frequent, because it needs significant amounts of water, with the exception of the period relating to autumn and winter. This plant multiplies through bulbs, which must be planted at the beginning of the autumn season.
Among the most important species are the Narcissus amancae, the hybridus, the biflorus, the tazetta, the triandru, the bulbocodium.
This plant fears the insects very much like the larvae of Lampetia equestris, capable of devouring the bulbs after having penetrated them. Mushrooms, such as the deadly Rosellinia necatrix or the Fusarium bulbigenum, are also very dangerous for the Narcissus.