Getting children interested in nature is something that we can all struggle with. Faced with so many distractions the natural world can often be forgotten about. I have learnt that keeping it simple, and seizing the moment when the opportunity arises, often yields the best result in terms of raising awareness and getting the conversation going about wildlife.
Last September we bought some Daffodil bulbs and they lay forgotten under a pile of clothes for weeks till my son discovered them. They were still in good condition so we went outside and sowed them in several pots at the front of the house. Come spring the first green shoot appeared and his excitement was infectious. Each morning we had to leave a few minutes early for school so that he had the time to check their progress. After an eternity in a child’s eye the green buds slowly turned yellow and the first flowers emerged.
Now as we push towards the end of March, their first and only flush of flowers is fading, and he is a bit heartbroken. But that is part of the wonderful education of nature. Life begins, fades but is renewed each year. A packet of bulbs has opened his eyes to the amazing cycle of nature and also thrown up some more challenging questions that he will struggle with for the rest of his life.
Daffodils are a firm favourite among gardeners. Take a stroll through any village or town and their golden heads greet you from gardens, parks and roadside verges. From an initial planting they can spread and are nearly pest and disease free. They have been known botanically and medicinally since ancient times. From their natural home in the Iberian Peninsula (Portugal, Spain. Andorra) they have been planted throughout the world. Woods and meadows were their traditional habitats and they still prefer well drained soil and plenty of sun. This is not surprising given the climate of their ancestors.
Narcissus pseudo- narcissus is the wild daffodil found in Ireland and it has become very scarce due to habitat loss, over picking and hybridization. It grows to around 15-30 cm high and flowers in Feb-March. The centre is pale yellow and the main trumpet or body of the flower is darker yellow. When they die back the roots contract and pull it further into the soil where is safer from burrowing animals and the winter frosts. The flower is also a great source of early nectar for queen bees after they emerge from hibernation.
Their scientific name Narcissi’s comes from the Greek word for Intoxicated (Narcotic) and these literally means” I grow numb”. People have sometime mistaken the bulbs for onions resulting in severe poisoning. The bulb contains dangerous alkaloids that are a protection against grazing animals. Stories abound around Roman soldiers, who when mortally wounded, eating Daffodil bulbs and slowly sinking into eternity.
Daffodils are also a symbol of vanity from the legend of Narcissus. He was a beautiful youth who fell in love with his own shadow. It is also considered unlucky to give just one Daffodil and a bunch will bring the bearer happiness for a year. It is also the national flower of Wales.
Many cultures both modern and ancient ascribe different meaning to Daffodils. For the Druids is meant purity and in Iran a symbol of the New Year.
Heading East they bring wealth and good fortune and in Persian literature a sign for beautiful eyes.
Daffodils are also known as the Easter or Lenten Lilly. At the last supper they were the first flower to bloom in the garden of Gethsemane. In recent times they have become a powerful symbol for the cancer society helping to raise vital funds and raising the spirits of countless families who are suffering from this life changing dis
Next time you see a Daffodil take a few minutes to appreciate that this bringer of spring is a symbol of beauty and hope too so many people within the community
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