ADS Executive Director

Daffodils around homesteads

February 18, 2019

Categories: American Daffodil Society, Daffodil Types, General, Historics

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Good morning all

This question sounded like something many of you would want to discuss.


From: Laura Smith
Subject: Daffodils at Chickamauga Battlefield

Message Body:

I visited Chickamauga Battlefield this weekend and noticed daffodils blooming around the old home sites. Could these possibly be original to the civil war era?

4 responses to “Daffodils around homesteads”

  1. Sara Van Beck says:

    I would sincerely doubt it for a host of reasons


  2. Keith Kridler, Texas Keith Kridler says:

    I would say “it depends” on what types of daffodils you were seeing on the battlefields! Across the southern states you can find multiple species of plants and flowers dating back to when the first European settlers arrived. In North East Texas most early family plot cemetery’s graves show to be from early 1820’s but most commonly at the church cemetery’s they were/are from the late 1830’s but majority of the early churches did not get built until the 1850’s or later. Early houses were more cabins than houses in this region. I help restore and maintain an 1849 local house which was the oldest house still standing in our county back in 1960. We installed a bathroom and “running water” to it and to the kitchen in 1984! For 100 years they carried water up from a “natural Spring” over 100 yards from the house! They installed a “hand dug well” with a pitcher pump behind the house in the 1930’s. This was a Two Story plantation house for 9,500 acres!

    You can still find the older cabin sites by their flowers. Campernelle/N. Odorus, Texas Star/N. Intermedius, Twin Sisters/N. Medioluteus, Sweeties/N. Jonquilla are common. On really sandy soils you also find N. Psuedo Narcissus with multiple variations of this species. Starting about 1880’s homesteads you see Sir Watkins showing up. The photos of Pine Mills Texas N. Jonquilla along Hwy. 14 north of Hawkins Texas date back four generations to a diary entry where a young bride left her family home in the Carolina’s in 1834 and arrived in Texas in 1835. Bringing with her “jonquils and white iris from her mother’s yard” along with garden and flower seeds. Kiefer, Orient, Le Conte, “Bartlet” pear trees were commonly planted at homesteads in the 1860’s to 1890 that still have survived. Normally on sandy soils there were also Black Walnut trees planted, as the tree nuts and hulls had many uses on a remote homesite.

    Normally over the years, any more rare flowering plant would have been dug up from around “Grand Mothers” cabins! Then moved to one of the childrens homes who inherited land. Common in Texas after the War of Independence for land grants of 10,000 acres or more. Upwards of 40 to 60 share cropper’s cabins, on this much land in the 1870’s in East Texas. Do you have any photos of the flowers you saw? Keith Kridler Mt. Pleasant, Texas

  3. Sara Van Beck says:


    Now that I am home, and my laptop is done running updates for an hour, a lengthier explanation of my “no” response

    Prior to the Civil War, ornamental gardening was by far the domain of the wealthy planter class in the Southeast. Some “middle class” strata folks gardened, little dooryard gardens, but not everyone by a stretch. And they didn’t have many flowers of any sort. Further daffodils were not an “in vogue” plant, but they were tough so they made it in the fence/hedge anyways.

    Georgia as a state was different in that its planter class installed a much greater array of high style landscape garden designs than its neighbors. In other states, many stuck with whatever their traditional garden design style/plan was that was brought by first settlers. Alabama had some flights of fancy. Natchez MS was a showcase, as was Charleston. But most stuck with the traditional designs (Tennessee in particular).

    An array of daffs were planted in some quarters, but were mostly limited to tazettas, doubles and jonquils. Singles were not bought/planted/preferred as a rule as they were not showy or fragrant – gardeners were looking for maximum bang for a limited buck budget, even the wealthy. Of gardens with verifiable ownership provenance, the only pre CW daffs in situ I’ve ever found were Telamonius Plenus (Virginia, Ga, Tenn, SC), N. jonquilla (one garden, South Carolina; possibly remnants in one Nashville garden) and N. pseudonarcissus (one garden, Virginia). Doesn’t mean more weren’t planted (there is ample archival evidence for such, including Orange Phoenix, N. jonquilla and N. x odorus), it’s just a question of what’s survived the vagaries of later owners, encroaching trees, expanded farming, redevelopment and the like.

    After the Civil War as the economy expanded and ornamental gardening expanded, so did planting daffs. Women recreated their pre-war family gardens in new homes, spruced up the old family garden (including adding daffodils), etc. Many young brides took starts of plants from home/mother with them upon marriage before the war, and after the war many still guarded their familial flowers albeit in new gardens (I call it Preservation by Family).

    In the 1870s in Georgia (South Carolina too), the regional agricultural journals’ editors and columnists for area newspapers started exhorting their middle class readers to begin ornamental gardening, penning regular columns to teach them how to grow and how to “landscape”. Most of the small farmers across the state did NO ornamental gardening whatsoever. The editors were encouraging the readers (men) to let their wives and daughters garden as exercise, learn about God’s plan, etc., as well as to lessen the raging eyesore they considered the small farm to be (the countryside north of Atlanta was particularly singled out for being an aesthetic wasteland). And spring bulbs were part of the recommended palate. Town gardens were better, but most were almost sparse by today’s standards.

    In a former life I worked extensively with the museum and archival collections at Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park. I was there a lot, I read a lot. The surrounding countryside ca. 1860 was not heavily populated, and I doubt had much meaningful ornamental plant material. Once the region recovered economically and began expanding again, I wouldn’t be surprised if the gardening wave hit and many of those daffs appeared. Some may be pass-alongs from very old days of yore, but the level of poverty in the area and then level of devastation I doubt they’re “original plantings” per se. Esp without photographs and some real sleuthing. Interestingly, there are battlefield accounts of charging enemy lines through the forests and running thru stands of the native orange lily which grows 6 feet tall (can’t remember the name) and how surreal it was to watch your fellow soldiers be blown to bits through such an incredibly beautiful place.

    (the LeConte pear Keith mentioned originated from a coastal Georgia famous botanist family’s garden; Louis LeConte was growing daffodils and keeping records starting around 1810; first on his records list were two strains of paperwhites… The pear was taken from the family gardens when the family evacuated after Sherman arrived in Savannah, and quickly became a financially important crop in central south Georgia)

    If the person who wrote in is interested in more, there’s a book she can buy on daffs in old gardens.


  4. ADS Executive Director ADS Executive Director says:

    Laura passed on these images that I’m sharing