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Gerard's Herbal Vol. 1

Gerard's Herbal V1 - CHAP. 84. Of Daffodils.

CHAP. 84. Of Daffodils.

The Kinds.

            Daffodil, or Narcissus according to Dioscorides, is of two sorts: the flowers of both are white, the one having in the middle a purple circle or coronet; the other with a yellow cup circle or coronet. Since whose time there hath been sundry others described, as shall be set forth in their proper places.

Fig. 207. Purple Circled Daffodil (1)

Fig. 208. Late many-flowered Daffodil with the Saffron-coloured middle.(4)


The Description.

            1. The first of the Daffodils is that with the purple crown or circle, having small narrow leaves, thick, fat, and full of slimy juice; among the which riseth up a naked stalk, smooth and hollow, of a foot high, bearing at the top a fair milk-white flower growing forth of a hood or thin film, such as the flowers of onions are wrapped in: in the midst of which flower is a round circle or small coronet of a yellowish colour, purfled or bordered about the edge of the said ring or circle with a pleasant purple colour; which being past, there followeth a thick knob or button, wherein is contained black round seed. The root is white, bulbous or Onion fashion.

            2. The second kind of Daffodil agreeth with the precedent in every respect, saving that this Daffodil flowereth in the beginning of February, and the other not until April, and is somewhat lesser. It is called Narcissus medio purpureus pręcox; that is, Timely purple ringed Daffodil. The next may have the addition pręcocior, More timely: and the last in place, but first in time, pręcosissimus, Most timely, or very early flowering Daffodil.

            3. The third kind of Daffodil with the purple ring or circle in the middle, hath many small narrow leaves, very flat, crookedly bending toward the top; among which riseth up a slender bare stalk, at whose top doth grow a fair and pleasant flower, like unto those before described, but lesser, and flowereth sooner, wherein consisteth the difference.

            There is also another somewhat less, and flowering somewhat carlier than the last described.

            4. This in roots, leaves, and stalks differeth very little from the last mentioned kinds; but it bears many flowers upon one stalk, the out-leaves being like the former, white, but the cup or ring in the middle of a saffron colour, with divers yellow threads contained therein.

Fig. 209. Daffodils (5-8)

            5. To these may be added another mentioned by Clusius, which differs from these only in the flowers; for this hath flowers consisting of six large leaves fairly spread abroad, within which are other six leaves not so large as the former, and then many other little leaves mixed with threads coming forth of the middle. Now there are purple welts which run between the first and second rank of leaves, in the flower, and so in the rest. This flowers in May and it is Narcissus pleno flore quintus, of Clusius.

            6. This late flowering Daffodil hath many fat thick leaves, full of juice, among the which riseth up a naked stalk, on the top whereof groweth a fair white flower, having in the middle a ring or yellow circle. The seed groweth in knobby seed vessels. The root is bulbous or Onion fashion. It flowereth later than the others before described, that is to say, in April and May.

            7. The seventh kind of Daffodil is that sort of Narcissus or Primrose Peerless that is most common in our country gardens, generally known every where. It hath long fat and thick leaves, full of a slimy juice; among which riseth up a bare thick stalk, hollow within and full of juice. The flower groweth at the top, of a yellowish white colour, with a yellow crown or circle in the middle; and flowereth in the month of April, and sometimes sooner. The root is bulbous fashion.

            8. The eighth Daffodil hath many broad and thick leaves, fat and full of juice, hollow and spongeous. The stalks, flowers, and roots are like the former,and differeth in that, that this plant bringeth forth many flowers upon one stalk, and the other fewer, and not of so perfect a sweet smell, but more offensive and stuffing the head. It hath this addition, Polyanthos, that is, of many flowers, wherein especially consisteth the difference.

Fig. 210. Daffodils (9-12)

            9. The Italian Daffodil is very like the former, the which to distinguish in words, that they may be known one from another, is impossible. Their flowers, leaves, and roots are like, saving that the flowers of this are sweeter and more in number.

            10. The double white Daffodil of Constantinople was sent into England unto the right honourable the Lord Treasurer, among other bulbed flowers: whose roots when they were planted in our London gardens, did bring forth beautiful flowers, very white and double, with some yellowness mixed in the middle leaves, pleasant and sweet in smell, but since that time we never could by any industry or manuring bring them unto flowering again. So that it should appear, when they were discharged of that birth or burthen which they had begotten in their own country, and not finding that matter, soil, or climate to beget more flowers, they remain ever since barren and fruitless. Besides, we found by experience, that those plants which in autumn did shoot forth leaves, did bring forth no flowers at all; and the others that appeared not until the spring, did flourish and bear their flowers. The stalks, leaves, and roots are like unto the other kinds of Daffodils. It is called of the Turks, Giul Catamer lale; That is, Narcissus with double flowers. Notwithstanding we have received from beyond the seas, as well from the Low Countries, as also from France, another sort of greater beauty, which from year to year doth yield forth most pleasant double flowers, and great increase of roots, very like as well in stalks as other parts of the plant, unto the other sorts of Daffodils. It differeth only in the flowers, which are very double and thick thrust together, as are the flowers of our double Primrose, halting in the middle of the flower some few chives or welts of a bright purple colour, and the other mixed with yellow as aforesaid.

            11. This also with double white flowers, which Clusius sets forth in the sixth place, is of the same kind with the last described; but it bears but one or two flowers upon a stalk, whereas the other hath many.

            12. This, which is Clusius his Narcissus flore plena 2, is in roots, leaves, and stalks very like the precedent; but the flowers are composed of six large white out-leaves; but the middle is filled with many fair yellow little leaves much like to the double yellow wall-flower. They smell sweet like as the last mentioned.


Fig. 211. Double Daffodil with a divers coloured middle. (13)

Fig. 214. Milk-white Daffodil. (14)

            13. This differs from the last mentioned only in that it is less, and that the middle of the flower within the yellow cup is filled with longish narrow little leaves, as it were crossing each other. Their colour is white, but mixed with some green on the outside, and yellow on the inside.

            14. The Milk-white Daffodil differeth not from the common white Daffodil, or Primrose peerless, in leaves, stalks, roots, or flowers, saving that the flowers of this plant hath not any other colour in the flower but white, whereas all the others are mixed with one colour or other.

Fig. 213. Rush Daffodil (15)

Fig. 214. Late Flowering Rush Daffodil.(16)

            15. The Rush Daffodil hath long, narrow, and thick leaves, very smooth and flexible, almost round like Rushes, whereof it took his surname Iuncifolius or Rushy. It springeth up in the beginning of January, at which time also the flowers do shoot forth their buds at the top of small rushy stalks, sometimes two, and often more upon one stalk, made of six small yellow leaves. The cup or crown in the middle is likewise yellow, in shape resembling the other Daffodils, but smaller, and of a strong sweet smell. The root is bulbed, white within, and covered with a black skin or film.

            16. This Rush Daffodil is like unto the precedent in each respect, saving that it is altogether lesser, and longer before it come to flowering. There is also a white flowered one of this kind.

Fig. 215. Rose or round flowered Iunquilia (17)

Fig. 216. White Iunquilia with the large cup. (18)

            17. There is also another Rush Daffodil or Iunquilia, with flowers not sharp pointed but round with a little cup in the middle: the colour is yellow or else white. This is Lobel's Narcissus juncifolius flore rotundę circinitatis roseo.

            18. There is also another Iunquilia whose leaves and stalks are like those of the first described Rushy Daffodil, but the cup in the midst of the flower is much larger. The colour of the flower is commonly white. Clusius calls this Narcissus 1 Iuncifolius amplo calice.


Fig. 217. White reflex Iunquilia. (19)

Fig. 218. Lesser reflex Iunquilia (19)

            19. There are three or four reflex Iunquilia, whose cups hang down, and the six encompassing leaves turn up or back, whence they take their names. The flowers of the first are yellow; those of the second all white, the cup of the third is yellow, and the reflex leaves white. The fourth hath a white cup, and yellow reflex leaves. This seems to be Lobel's Narcissus montanus minimus coronatus.


Fig. 219. Double Iunquilia. (20)

Fig. 220. Persian Daffodil (21)

            20. This is like to the ordinary lesser Iunquilia, but that the flowers are very double, consisting of many long and large leaves mixed together; the shorter leaves are obtuse, as if they were clipped off. They are wholly yellow.

            21. The Persian Daffodil hath no stalk at all, but only a small and tender foot stalk of an inch high, such as the Saffron flower hath: upon which short and tender stalk doth stand a yellowish flower consisting of six small leaves; of which the three innermost are narrower than those on the outside. In the middle of the flower doth grow forth a long style or pointel, set about with many small chives or threads. The whole flower is of an unpleasant smell, much like to Poppy. The leaves rise up a little before the flower; long, smooth, and shining. The root is bulbed, thick, and gross, blackish on the outside, and pale within, with some threads hanging at the lower part.

Fig. 221. Great Winter Daffodil (22)

Fig. 222. Timely Spring Daffodil. (23)

            22. The autumn Daffodil bringeth forth long smooth, glittering leaves, of a deep green colour: among which riseth up a short stalk, bearing at the top one flower and no more, resembling the flower of Mead Saffron or Common Saffron, consisting of six leaves of a bright shining yellow colour; in the middle whereof stand six threads or chives, and also a pistil or clapper yellow likewise. The root is thick and gross like unto the precedent.

            23. To this last may be adjoined another which in shape somewhat resembles it. The leaves are smooth, green, growing straight up, and almost a finger's breadth; among which riseth up a stalk a little more than half a foot in height, at the top of which groweth forth a yellow flower not much unlike that of the last described autumn Narcissus: it consisteth of six leaves some inch and half in length, and some half inch broad, sharp pointed, the three inner leaves being somewhat longer than the outer. There grow forth out of the midst of the flower three whitish chives, tipped with yellow, and a pistil in the midst of them longer than any of them. The root consists of many coats, with fibres coming forth of the bottom thereof like others of this kind. It flowers in February.

Fig. 223. Small Winter Daffodil (24)

            24. Small Winter Daffodil hath a bulbous root, much like unto the root of Rush Daffodil, but lesser: from the which riseth up a naked stalk without leaves, on the top whereof groweth a small white flower with a yellow circle in the middle, sweet in smell, something stuffing the head as do the other Daffodils.

The Place.

            The Daffodils with purple coronets do grow wild in sundry places of France, chiefly in Burgundy, and in Switzerland in meadows.

            The Rush Daffodil groweth wild in sundry places of Spain, among grass and other herbs. Dioscorides saith, That they be especially found upon mountains. Theocritus affirmeth the Daffodils to grow in meadows, in his nineteenth Idyll or twentieth, according to some editions: where he writeth, That the fair Lady Europa entering with her Nymphs into the meadows, did gather the sweet smelling Daffodils; in verses which we may English thus:

But when the girls were come into
The meadows flowering all in sight,
That wench with these, this wench with those
Trim flowers, themselves did all delight:
She with the Narcissus good in scent,
And she with Hyacinths content.

            But it is not greatly to our purpose particularly to seek out their places of growing wild, seeing that we have them all and every of them in our London gardens, in great abundance. The common white Daffodil groweth wild in fields and sides of woods in the west parts of England.

The Time.

            They flower for the most part in the Spring, that is, from the beginning of February unto the end of April.

            The Persian and winter Daffodils do flower in September and October.

The Names.

            Although their names be set forth in their several titles, which may serve for their appellations and distinctions; notwithstanding it shall not be impertinent to add a supply of names, as also the cause why they are so called.

            The Persian Daffodil is called in the Sclavonian or Turkish tongue, Zaremcada Persiana, and Zaremcatta, as for the most part all other sorts of Daffodils are. Notwithstanding the double flowered Daffodil they name Giul catamer lale, which name they generally give unto all double flowers.

            The common white Daffodil with the yellow circle they call Serin cade, that is to say, the king's Chalice; and Deue bohini, which is to say, Camel's neck, or as we do say of a thing with long spindle-shins, Long-shanks, urging it from the long neck of the flower.

            The Rush Daffodil is called of some Ionquillę, of the similitude the leaves have with Rushes. Of Dioscorides, Bulbus Vomitorius, or Vomiting Bulb, according to Dodonęus.

            Generally all the kinds are comprehended under this name Narcissus, called in Dutch, Narcissen: in Spanish, Iennetten: in English, Daffodilly, Daffodowndilly, and Primrose Peerless.

            Sophocles nameth them the garland of the infernal gods, because they that are departed and dulled with death, should worthily be crowned with a dulling flower.

            Of the first and second Daffodil Ovid hath made mention in the third book of his Metamorphosis, where he describeth the transformation of the fair boy Narcissus into a flower of his own name; saying,

Nusquam corpus erat, croceum pro corpore florem
Inveniunt, folis medium cingentibus albis.

But as for body none remain'd; instead whereof they found
A yellow flower, with milk white leaves ingirting of it round.

            Pliny and Plutarch affirm, as partly hath been touched before, that their narcotic quality was the very cause of the name Narcissus, that is, a quality causing sleepiness; which in Greek is narkesis, or of the fish Torpedo, called in Greek, narke which benumbs the hands of them that touch him, as being hurtful to the sinews; and bringeth dullness to the head, which properly belongeth to the Narcissus, whose smell causeth drowsiness.

The Nature.

            The roots of Narcissus are hot and dry in the second degree.

The Virtues.

            A. Galen saith, That the roots of Narcissus have such wonderful qualities in drying, that they confound and glue together very great wounds, yea and such gashes or cuts as happen about the veins, sinews, and tendons. They have also a certain cleansing and attracting faculty.

            B. The roots of Narcissus stamped with honey, and applied plaster-wise, helpeth them that are burned with fire, and joineth together sinews that are cut in sunder.

            C. Being used in manner aforesaid, it helpeth the great wrenches of the ankles, the aches and pains of the joints.

            D. The same applied with honey and nettle seed helpeth sun burning and the morphew.

            E. The same stamped with barrow's grease and leaven of rye bread, hasteneth to maturation hard impostumes which are not easily brought to ripeness.

            F. Being stamped with the meal of Darnel and honey, it draweth forth thorns and stubs out of any part of the body.

            G. The root, by the experiment of Apulieus, stamped and strained, and given in drink, helpeth the cough and colic, and those that be entred into a phthisic.

            H. The roots whether they be eaten or drunken, do move vomit; and being mingled with vinegar and nettle seed, taketh away lentils and spots in the face.

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