George Dorner, Illinois

A Student Takes a Fresh Look at Daffodils

October 3, 2008
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Categories: General, Publications and Resources

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The President of the ADS gets a new bundle of email not experienced prior to assumption to the office. Some of it is very pleasant. This is the story of one such email.

“The daffodil is a flower surrounded by an air of romanticism, as illustrated by William Wordsworth’s 1804 poem I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud and English poet Horace Smith who once described daffodils as “floral apostles.”
That’s the writing of Arielle Edelman, a high school senior who said in an email received here in early September, ” I’ve been reading about medicinal uses for daffodils in the early 20th and late 19th centuries, and am wondering why they’re used today almost solely for beautification of the garden. Do you have any thoughts on why this might be? What do you think the daffodil represents in society today, and why do people seem to be so drawn to this flower?” As a topic for a school theme Arielle decided to contrast daffodils as “useful” with our romantic idea of them, as well as how and when a change in point of view may have developed.
The idea appealed to me. I had been seeking someone to make a presentation at the 2009 convention on the topic of daffodils as poison, a not so romantic facet of our favorite flower, but one which drew me and many others into growing them in profusion. Keep the critters away! While I found several references on the web and in the library at the Chicago Botanic Garden, I was unable to entice anyone to make a presentation on the subject.
But I knew that I didn’t have the full picture on the practical uses of daffodils. So I responded to Arielle with some encouraging words and the names of several of our senior and esteemed members.
This week I received the result of Arielle’s research and writing, a nicely constructed essay with historical references and quotes from Mary Lou Gripshover and Nancy Tackett. The last page contains Wordsworth’s poem in its entirety.
This may have been the most unexpected and uplifting event in my short tenure as President. Imagine this, a young person who explored a new perspective on daffodils and put it on paper! I congratulated Arielle, asked her permission to share her paper with you, and urged her to now put some bulbs in the ground so that she may celebrate the results of her work again, come spring. With luck, more than a few bulbs will be planted and we may hope for a new member down the road.
Arielle responded that you are welcome to read her essay, but said, ” Just as a disclaimer, the paper is much more literary than analytical, and may not appeal to everyone at the ADS! ”  ADS members may quibble here and there, but you will enjoy the paper. If you want to see Arielle’s essay in its entirety you may download it in PDF format at
Clicking on this link or copying and pasting it in your browser should download a copy of the paper which then may be viewed with Adobe Acrobat or an equivalent program.
George Dorner
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