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We are quite taken by yellow daffodils at the moment. Daffodils also called Narcissus. These are great favorities with all Japanese. From early February to mid-February, we can see the NIHON SUISEN (Japanese name) which are a kind of daffodil that was brought from China from around the Muromachi period but which is naturalized along the coasts of Japan. However, daffodils originated from the Mediterranean area 1,000 years ago.

Daffodil, rappa suisen ラッパスイセン/yellow daffodil, kizuisen 黄水仙
poet’s Narcissus, “red-mouthed daffodil” /
kuchibeni suisen 口紅水仙
are the varieties that reached Japan during the Edo period and which are cultivated in gardens and parks. They start flowering around March. They have a strong sweet smell.

Narcissus is the botanical name for daffodils. (The name tazetta is Italian, meaning a small cup, referring to the flower.) There are 11 divisions of Narcissus and an estimated 50 species, chiefly in the Mediterranean region. Narcissus tazetta is the most widely distributed, with subspecies and varieties found from the Canary Islands through the Mediterranean, Central Asia and on into China.

This is the strongest smelling daffodil there is, but not quite as strong as the German iris. There are an estimated 5 million bunch-flowering narcissus (Narcissus tazetta var. chinensis) growing in Kuroiwa, Awajima island, they started from a small number planted about 200 years ago for the cut-flower industry.Family: Amaryllidaceae.

Plant type: bulbous plant, dormant in summer.

Habitat: coastal areas
Blooming season: December-February
Height: 30-50cm



This daffodil’s leaves are fleshy, sea-green in color, narrow (8-15 mm) and long (20-40 cm). The flowering stems are 20-40 cm long, and the flowers are borne in bunches (hence the name) of five to eight flowers. The decorative part of the flower is made up of two parts: the perianth which is cream-white, and the corona, which is orange-yellow and cup-shaped, measuring about 1.5 cm. There are six perianth petals, each 1.5 cm long and joined to the corona on the lower end. This Narcissus species produces no seed; instead they reproduce by offsets or tiny bulblets. The flowers open as early as December and continue until April, although in Kuroiwa they finish flowering around Feb. 15.

In plants of this kind the bulbs act as a storehouse and the leaves as food factories. It is necessary to let the leaves die back naturally. Some people cut them, but this deprives the plants of vital energy for next year’s bulbs.


Linda Inoki wrote in the Japan Times:

“The first snow
The leaves of the narcissus
Are just bending”

By Matsuo Basho (1644-94),
translated by R.H. Blyth in “Haiku” (Hokuseido Press)

Although dainty narcissus plants look very natural in a Japanese setting, they have traveled a long way from their original home in the Mediterranean. At least 1,000 years ago, merchants brought the bulbs of Narcissus tazetta to China, where they were called “New Year Lilies.” In Japan, they are sometimes called se-chu-ka (midst-the-snow flowers), since they bloom from November to March. Their lovely, heady scent was thought to make people drowsy, and the name “narcissus” comes from the Greek narcosis , meaning the “plant of numbness.” The plants need spring rain in order to bloom and are often associated with water, as in the legend of Narcissus, a beautiful youth who fell in love with his reflection in a pool and pined away. The flowers that bear his name then sprang up where he died.

The Japan Times: Jan. 10, 2002
(C) All rights reserved

To read about the world’s daffodils, go to this link.

The photo above was taken at Tsugaoka Hachimangu Shrine – where we can also see Peonies (Botan) (Paeonia suffruticosa) at the Peony Garden at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine in the dead of winter which is unusual (though I didn’t get to this trip).

Sources. How to Grow Daffodils


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