Narcissus, Narcissus, in truth, also not to confuse plant and flower from the protagonist of the Greek myth. It is part of the family of Amaryllidaceae, has all European origins and the name it draws from the Greek language, from the word narkào which means "stun".
It is an explicit and funny reference to the penetrating and intoxicating smell that the flowers of some species of narcissus emanate. Some because there are many, as we will see, and also with very different aesthetic characteristics. Sometimes they don't even look like the same flower. Returning to the name of the plant, there is also a hypothesis, less accredited but to be mentioned, which wants Narcissus to be the evolution of its Persian name نرگس and which is pronounced Nargis.
When we talk about narcissus we almost always mean the flower informally. The bulbous plant generates it at the end of winter and it blooms from March to June. Although it then varies from species to species, in general the flowers show an outer and an inner crown, the latter is sometimes darker in color and takes the shape of a trumpet. Tighter, enclosed. Cozy, almost.
Like colors, the narcissus in nature it is either white or yellow, but then there are the hybrids, born from a great and important, and tremendously patient, experimentation and selection work done by growers. It is only thanks to them and their passion that today we can also find flowers in other colors, for example orange or pink, which maybe goes better with our garden. Or with the flowerbed of the town rotunda in which it will be placed. The flowers, beyond the color, are almost always isolated, "only children", have at most six petals and have always attracted us humans for their objective aesthetic qualities.
Most of the time you look for it, you find a white narcissus. Making a complete list is boring and useless, I'll tell you a rare example: the Narcissus autumnal said professionally Narcissus serotinus. It is found in Italy, and especially in the south, or in some stretches of the Tyrrhenian coast, and then here and there a bit surprising. These are the locations, as habitat the white autumn narcissus chooses arid and stony meadows, or clearings at low altitude, up to 900 meters. The flower is unique and white, with lanceolate petals, slender but of one powerful beauty, also because it is rare.
If it is not white it is yellow, hybrids excluded, and among all I chose a type that has a deep yellow as I like it. The Trombone Narcissus - with scientific name Narcissus pseudonarcissus - cultivated for ornamentation or to look for in its wild version in vegetable gardens, vineyards and flat fields, up to 800 m. N. trombone is one of the species found in Italy where it is often present a little along the entire length of the Peninsula, without particular preference. Today it is rare as a spontaneous flower, but cultivated it lives well throughout our beautiful country. With its intense yellow flower, it reaches 40 cm, from 20 upwards. Other types of yellow narcissus rare in spontaneous form are the peerless N. (Narcissus incomparabilis); N. odorato (Narcissus odorus) and N. daffodil or Spanish daffodil (Narcissus jonquilla).
As a plant, it is in the category of bulbous plants, that is, it develops flowers and leaves from an underground bulb. We have already talked about the flower, there is not much to say about the leaves except that they have a ribbon shape, are erect, linear-lanceolate and positioned only at the base of the plant. Among the numerous species of narcissus that exist, some grow spontaneously in Italy, for example the Narcissus poēticus L. - known as wild narcissus or flower of May: it can be found in the mountain pastures from the Alps to the Sila. We have already told of Narcissus pseudonarcissus L. better known as Trombone, which has recently become wild.
When it comes to narcissus, it must absolutely be remembered that both the bulbs and the leaves contain a poisonous alkaloid called narcissin. This substance, one of the few known and identified in narcissus, if accidentally ingested, can cause neuronal disorders and gastric inflammation in grazing animals. Or in humans: we cannot be distracted by admiring the narcissus even if its perfume is often intoxicating. If you do not treat yourself immediately, once this liquid has been ingested, in less than 24 hours, there is a danger of death. Of course it is difficult for a person to think of putting a bulb in his mouth: the real problem lies in their similarity to edible onions. Those make you cry, if cut by hand, but they certainly don't make you die.
Narcissus: healing properties
Especially the bulb, but in general the whole plant or almost, has analgesic, antispasmodic, emetic, anticonvulsant, febrifugal and antipyretic properties. The flower and the bulb, again, are also used for the treatment of abscesses, mastitis, boils. At the moment there are not many other certainties on the properties of the narcissus because there are no scientifically confirmed analyzes of its constituents, apart from the aforementioned and toxic narcissin.
Narcissus: the myth
In Greek mythology Narcissus is not our beloved flower but a man, and quite hateful too. And the protagonist of the myth of the same name, famous for its beauty, son of the nymph Liriope and the river god Cefiso. There are versions that say it was born from the union between Selene and Endymion. In any case, he is an incredibly cruel type in history, because rejects every person who loves him, so he deserves a punishment: the gods make him fall in love with his own image reflected in a mirror of water. So full of himself, he dies falling into the river where he mirrors himself.
Narcissus: meaning of the flower
Apart from the Greek myth, the flower narcissus in history and in the world it assumes different meanings and symbols.
The ancient Romans thought it was the symbol of the afterlife and had the custom of planting them on the tombs of the dead, the Druids, priests of the ancient Celts, instead claimed it was a flower symbol of purity and capable of absorbing the negative and evil thoughts of all humanity. That's the reason, they argued, because it had become a poisonous flower.
In ancient Jewish culture it is associated with the beauty and fertility of women, we find it in Christian iconography symbol of rebirth after death: it is obvious to associate it with Easter. Traveling to China we find it as symbol of luck and prosperity for the new year, since its flowering corresponds precisely to the period of the Chinese New Year. It is a very welcome gift in the case of a new job or if you are trying to have more luck in life. Let's mark it, maybe it is also valid in Italy!
For information on cultivation: how to grow daffodils
Narciso: Narciso Rodriguez perfume
The essential oil extracted from the flower is often used to produce excellent perfumes. Since the flower remains with a considerable toxicity rate, it is advisable not to overdo the dosages. But we can safely indulge in a splash of perfume when we want to feel blooming or flourishing. The scent is right Narciso Rodriguez: a 100 ml bottle 70 euros high and a bit of vain spring accompanies us throughout the day.
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