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A spring-flowering bulb, Narcissus is the name of a genus which includes flower bulbs like Daffodils, Jonquils, Paperwhites and so forth. Narcissi (plural form of Narcissus) are easily grown from bulbs. The word Narcissus is derived from the Greek word narke, meaning numbness or stupor. Some attribute the naming of the flower to its narcotic fragrance while others debate that it is associated with the poisonous nature of the Narcissus bulbs. According to a Greek myth, a young lad Narcissus was so taken with himself that he stared at his reflection in a pool of water until he eventually turned into his namesake flower. Facts about the flower: • Narcissus is mostly native to the Mediterranean region, but a few species are found through central Asia to China. • Without exception the most common Narcissus species found growing throughout America today were brought over from Europe by the early colonists and distributed westward by settlers from the East. • Narcissus is mainly cultivated in the Channel Isles, the Isles of Sicilly, Great Britain and Holland. Narcissus flowers are available from November to April depending on the species. The typical Daffodil blooms in the early spring Narcissus flowers are usually white or yellow and are characterized by a narrow, tubular base (hypanthium), three petals and three petallike sepals (the perianth), and a central cuplike appendage (the corona, cup, or crown) that may be of contrasting color.

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Thursday, Feb. 5, 2004, Japan Times
IN BLOOM
Kizuisen (Daffodil) By LINDA INOKI
Foxes playing
Among the daffodils;
A bright moonlit night.
By Buson (1715-83), quoted in “Haiku” by R.H. Blyth (Hokuseido Press)

In this verse, the painter-poet Buson evokes a mysterious night, with magical foxes drawn to the unsleeping flowers. Japan’s most popular suisen, or narcissus, is the beautiful and fragrant Narcissus tazetta, which is a rare example of a plant that was introduced to Asia by Western merchants in ancient times. In China and Japan, it blooms just as winter turns to spring, at the traditional time of the new year. The kanji characters for suisen mean “water hermit,” which is a happy choice as these plants bloom in the spring rains and as the snow melts in the mountains. Meanwhile, kizuisen means “yellow narcissus.” In English there is a clear distinction between the narcissus (or jonquil) and the daffodil. The narcissus bears several flowers on each stem, and is loved for its fine perfume and dainty shape; the daffodil bears one bright yellow flower on each stem, with a large central “trumpet.” However, both are close relatives in the narcissus family, originating from the hills around the Mediterranean. Since bulbs are easily carried, and the plant has a dormant period after it has flowered, traders also took the narcissus to northern Europe. In Britain, it was once known as the “chalice flower,” as it blooms around Easter, when a chalice for wine was used in the Christian rites. Long ago the plant escaped from gardens, and as a child on Easter holidays I remember seeing small daffodils flowering wild along the riverbanks in Wales. The daffodil is the national flower of Wales, along with, more curiously, a kind of naga-negi, or leek.

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