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By Ellen Peffley
Spring officially arrives this Saturday with the March, Spring or Vernal Equinox, when the sun crosses the equator heading north. Days will lengthen and temperatures will warm because the Northern Hemisphere is slanting toward the sun.
Daffodils are one of the first flowers of spring. Clusters of slender daffodil leaves emerge, followed by blossoms, one per leaf cluster. These cheerful spring flowers seem to be raising their leafy arms and bright blooms as they stretch upward to bathe in the warm sunshine.
Perhaps it was such a vision of beauty that prompted William Wordsworth to write his poem “Daffodils.” After a hike in the woods on April 15, 1802 with his sister, Dorothy, Wordsworth reminisced on an unexpected expanse of daffodils they came upon in the woods.
In this short excerpt, we are touched with his imagery so eloquently placed into words:
“I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
…Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
…And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.”
The entire poem can be found at allpoetry.com/Daffodils.
From a distance, the daffodil is a simple, bouncy, golden-yellow flower. But when looking closely, one sees an intricately-designed blossom. Single flowers of a daffodil are borne on the tips of long, leafless flower stalks or stems called scapes. Each flower bud is enclosed in a papery covering called a spathe. When the flower bud swells and matures, the papery spathe splits and the blossom unfurls. Remnants of the papery spathe are found at the base of the blossom.
A daffodil blossom has two main showy parts. The outermost structure is the tube-shaped perianth. The perianth (peri-around and anth– flower) is the calyx (KAY-licks) which is a whorl of six fused sepals. The perianth surrounds the next structure, the frilly trumpet-shaped cup. The cup is the corolla, which is a whorl of six fused petals. The accompanying photo shows a bicolored daffodil blossom with the whorl of six fused sepals of the white perianth and the whorl of six fused petals of the yellow corolla. In the center of the blossom is the yellow female pistil surrounded by six fused, yellow male stamens.
Another British poet, John Keats, is quoted as saying, “Daffodils bring joy forever. With their bright yellow petals, daffodils seem the perfect way to say that the sun is always shining whenever your loved one is around” (almanac.com).
As daffodils are one of the first flowers of spring, they communicate new beginnings. Maybe this is why the daffodil is the birth flower of March. Happy birthday to all March babies!