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The Amaryllis Family: Genus Narcissus

The genus Narcissus in the Amaryllis Family (Amaryllidaceae) is native to southern Europe, the Mediterranean area, and into Asia Minor. They belong to the Eurasian clade of the family and are most closely related to the genera Galanthus and Leucojum. They are herbaceous perennial bulbs. Some of the species produce their foliage in autumn and carry it though the winter. Others, the hardier ones in cold climates, leaf out later, in early spring. The flowers are borne in an umbel, a cluster at the top of the peduncle or stalk.

The Narcissus are the familiar daffodils and jonquils of the garden. The countless modern hybrids, with their colors from white and yellow to orange and pink to nearly red, have been bred from a mere handful of wild species.

These flowers are a definite sign of spring. The earliest hardy varieties, such as 'February Gold', start blooming at the end of winter. They are followed by a continuous series of varieties like 'Rijnveld's Early Sensation', 'Carlton', 'Dutch Master', and 'Primeure', down through March and April, ending in May with such as 'Baby Moon'.

Narcissus grow from bulbs. Surely everyone already knows what a Narcissus bulb looks like -- it is a true bulb, with numerous tightly packed scales arising from a basal plate.

Narcissus 'Taffeta' in December Many of the smaller species from around the Mediterranean Sea are not hardy in cold climates (USDA zones 5 and colder), but there they can be enjoyed as pot plants in a greenhouse or on a sunny winter windowsill. Especially delightful are those which bloom in late autumn and winter, such as Narcissus serotinus and N. 'Taffeta'.

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For information about this account, contact:
James E. Shields,
Last revised: 14 February 2013.
© Copyright 2013 by James E. Shields. All rights reserved.