Daffodil





The yellow Daffodil, which is such a favourite flower of our early

Spring because of its large size, and showy yellow color, grows

commonly in English woods, fields, and orchards. Its popular

names, Daffodowndilly, Daffodily, and Affodily, bear reference to

the Asphodel, with which blossom of the ancient Greeks this is

identical. It further owns the botanical name of Narcissus

(pseudo-narcissus)--not after the classical youth who met with his

death through vainly trying to embrace his image reflected in a clear

stream because of its exquisite beauty, and who is fabled to have

been therefore changed into flower--but by reason of the narcotic

properties which the plant possesses, as signified by the Greek

word, Narkao, to benumb. Pliny described it as a Narce

narcisswm dictum, non a fabuloso puero. An extract of the bulbs

when applied to open wounds has produced staggering, numbness

of the whole nervous system, and paralysis of the heart. Socrates

called this plant the Chaplet of the Infernal Gods, because of its

[142] narcotic effects. Nevertheless, the roots of the asphodel were

thought by the ancient Greeks to be edible, and they were

therefore laid in tombs as food for the dead. Lucian tells us that

Charon, the ferryman who rowed the souls of the departed over the

river Styx, said: I know why Mercury keeps us waiting here so

long. Down in these regions there is nothing to be had but,

asphodel, and oblations, in the midst of mist and darkness;

whereas up in heaven he finds it all bright and clear, with

ambrosia there, and nectar in plenty.



In the Middle Ages the roots of the Daffodil were called Cibi

regis, food for a king,; but his Majesty must have had a

disturbed night after partaking thereof, as they are highly

stimulating to the kidneys: indeed, there is strong reason for

supposing that these roots have a prior claim to those of the

dandelion for lectimingous fame, (lectus, the bed; mingo, to

irrigate).



The brilliant yellow blossom of the Daffodil possesses, as is well

known, a bell-shaped crown in the midst of its petals, which is

strikingly characteristic. The flower-stalk is hollow, bearing on its

summit a membranous sheath, which envelops a single flower of

an unpleasant odour. But the Jonquil, which is a cultivated variety

of the Daffodil, having white petals with a yellow crown, yields a

delicious perfume, which modern chemistry can closely imitate by

a hydrocarbon compound. If naphthalin, a product of coal tar oil,

has but the smallest particle of its scent diffused in a room, the

special aroma of jonquil and narcissus is at once perceived.



When the flowers of the Daffodil are dried in the sun, if a

decoction of them is made, from fifteen to thirty grains will prove

emetic like that of Ipecacuanha. From five to six ounces of boiling

water should be poured on this quantity of the dried [143] flowers,

and should stand for twenty minutes. It will then serve most

usefully for relieving the congestive bronchial catarrh of children,

being sweetened, and given one third at a time every ten or fifteen

minutes until it provokes vomiting. It is also beneficial in this way,

but when given less often, for epidemic dysentery.



The chemical principles of the Daffodil have not been investigated;

but a yellow volatile oil of disagreeable odour, and a brown

colouring matter, have been got from the flowers.



Arabians commended this oil to be applied for curing baldness,

and for stimulating the sexual organs.



Herrick alludes in his Hesperides to the Daffodil as death:--



When a Daffodil I see

Hanging down its head towards me,

Guess I may what I must be--

First I shall decline my head;

Secondly I shall be dead;

Lastly, safely buried.



Daffodils, popularly known in this country as Lent Lilies, are

called by the French Pauvres filles de Sainte Clare. The name

Junquillo is the Spanish diminutive of Junco, the rush, and

is given to the jonquil because of its slender rush-like stem. From

its fragrant flowers a sweet-smelling yellow oil is obtained.



The medicinal influence of the daffodil on the nervous System has

led to giving its flowers and its bulb for Hysterical affections, and

even epilepsy, with benefit.





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