Jaydee Ager, Georgia

species daffodils

November 14, 2017

Categories: Breeding, Daffodil Types, General, Hybridizing, Publications and Resources, Seedling, Species

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I have returned home from the ADS Fall Forum & Fall Daffodil Show in Cincinnati, OH. I express profuse appreciation to all those that worked to make the event possible and so very successful.

As previously reported in this forum, as well as FaceBook, etc.—the show was awe inspiring and has set me to wondering about species daffodils. To be forthcoming—I’ve never been that intrigued about species daffodils in the past. But this weekend changed that.

At the risk of putting my full frontal horticultural and geological ignorance on display for the world to see—I want to pose some questions. I hope some of you that are so experienced on observing species in their native habitat can provide to all—the benefit of your knowledge. And I further ask that you tolerate my lack of scientific and academic expertise. As with most things, I just know enough to be dangerous.

In remarks made by Harold Koopowitz at the ADS Fall Forum, he talked about an adaptation by certain early blooming daffodils, whereby they hang their head (alpestris ?), so as to protect their precious pollen from rain. Bam! That was an “Ah Hah” moment for me. I was a guest of Mary Lou Gripshover (MLG) in her Cincinnati home this weekend–and she had the same thought when Harold said this. So armed with Michael Salmon’s new book, a World Atlas, and MLG’s knowledge of species Narcissus, she and I considered the geographical location and range of certain species which display “unusual” characteristics. I get it, that in nature, survival is dependent upon many variables–and that adaptation is crucial if you are going to “make the cut” and survive long term. And I also understand that in nature, anomalies occur. I get it that Nature Happens!

MLG and I started wondering about some of Harold’s fascinating seedlings and his breeding efforts with species that display no corona. How many known species exist that have no corona? I guessed about ten? I said to MLG that I wonder if species which have no corona are actually the oldest Narcissus species present at this time–and that perhaps they are “relictual”?

Is there a way to determine the age of a species daffodil give or take several thousand years? Did the genus Narcissus appear after the last Ice Age, or not until a very long time thereafter? Do we believe they began to appear around the Mediterranean–or were they “pushed” there and left by retreating glacial ice deposits, moraines, etc.?

As an example, I’m aware of a southeastern USA Trillium which is considered relictual and is actually named Trillium reliquum. Was development of a corona in the genus Narcissus–an adaptation to achieve more effective pollination? Were Narcissus species known to display no corona–dependent upon perhaps a single or limited insects species to pollinate them? Another Southeastern USA native plant, Hymenocallis coronaria is dependent upon a single moth species to pollinate it. Both Trillium reliquum and Hymenocallis coronaria are both found in very specific habitats in a very limited, known and isolated population range at this time. We know that certain insects evolve to be the most effective pollinator for certain plants.

The USA Southeastern Blueberry Bee, Habropoda laboriosa, is known to be the most effective pollinator for the southeast rabbit eye blueberry plant (Vaccinium ashei). It is obvious that the native blueberry plant and the native Southeastern Blueberry Bee evolved simultaneously and have what could be considered an almost symbiotic relationship. Does the same phenomenon occur in species Narcissus and did this help drive the tremendous diversity in the genus Narcissus?

I’m the most fascinated with the species that exhibit no corona as it relates to the burning question–WHY? Your feedback is solicited, please.

Many thanks,
Jaydee Atkins Ager
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living in USDA Zone 8b
in the State of Georgia
Southeastern USA


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8 Responses to species daffodils

  1. Drew Mc Farland, Ohio
    November 15, 2017 at 7:51 am

    Sorry that making it down to Cincinnati was impossible for me.  Great information and questions Jaydee!  


    Drew McFarland
    Granville, Ohio.

  2. Naomi Liggett, Ohio
    November 15, 2017 at 5:32 pm

    Great photos.

    Sent from my iPad

  3. Lawrence Trevanion, Australia
    Lawrence Trevanion, Australia
    November 15, 2017 at 10:17 pm
  4. David Adams, New Zealand
    November 16, 2017 at 1:22 am

    We know that N cyclamineus grows near streams and usually in damp places. It has always been my contention that the pendant flower is to protect the pollen from water splashes. Or maybe we know that N cyclamineus bulbs are often annual in character. Maybe the pendant flower ensures self pollination. I once found eighty seeds in a cyclamineus pod. That should have ensured the survival of the species.
    FWIW. For what its worth.

  5. Harold Koopowitz, California
    Harold Koopowitz, California
    November 17, 2017 at 8:28 am

    Let me try and answer some of your interesting questions or at least point towards possible answers.

    Only 4 species have been reported lacking a corona.

    1. N. broussonetii and its close relative N. antialtlanticus. The DNA says these are merely tazettas and probably close to paperwhites. The loss of the corona is probably just a mutation and it does not matter because they flower in the fall when there is not much rain.
    2. N. cavanillessii. Actually has a corona but it reduced to a microscopic scale. This is the only narcissus species that has flowers that close at night and open during the day. Closing the flower protects the pollen from the dew.
    3. N. deficiens. Was described once 200 years ago and has not been seen since. It may have been a chance mutation of N. obsoletus because its drawing shows the presence of a leaf.

    Many of those you saw at the FBM actually do have a corona but it is reduced in size and you need a magnifier to see it.

    Your other thought was when did the genus evolve? Certainly long before the last ice age, that ended only 6,000 years ago. It is possible to work  out a date from DNA studies and Isobel Marques may have done this already. I will need to read her most recent paper again. My guess is many millions of years ago.

    I think a lot of the autumn bloomers would survive in Georgia if you could keep them dry over the summer. If you want to try some let me know next summer.

  6. Jaydee Ager, Georgia
    Jaydee Ager, Georgia
    November 17, 2017 at 9:05 am

    Many thanks, Harold Koopowitz and Lawrence Trevanion. I have obtained the paper on academia.edu and will do my best to understand what I read. Most of it will be out of my pay grade—but I will aspire to glean what I can. I’ll re-read John David’s Journal article also. After I attempt to digest these two scholarly publications/articles I’ll be back in touch if I am still in a state of “wondering why”. Harold, thanks for boring down to the meat of my questions and giving me succinct, fascinating answers. Very helpful! And if you can ascertain approximately how old the genus is—I think many would want to know that info. I’ve always been amazed at the incredible diversity of the genus—and that the entire genus evolved in the area adjacent to the Mediterranean. So here we go again with another question: is there another genus that has the incredible diversity of Narcissus, but that is endemic to an area on Planet Earth with very diverse climate/geography, like species Narcissus “ringing” the Mediterranean. So I, too, have evolved. I bought some ‘Mount Hood’ daffodil bulbs in 1971 and entered them in a daffodil show in Atlanta, GA in spring 1972. I had no clue about “the rest of the story”. And yet, here I am. Kinda’ cosmic.
    Jaydee Atkins Ager

  7. Jaydee Ager, Georgia
    Jaydee Ager, Georgia
    November 17, 2017 at 3:10 pm

    To Harold Koopowitz and Lawrence Trevanion: after reading the two recommended scholarly papers/articles—I have a MUCH better understanding and found many of my questions answered. I had to read on my MacBook Air and use my iPad Mini as a resource tool so I could look up word definitions. or learn about fascinating things like the Messinian Salinity Crisis, etc. I’m going back to baking pound cakes now. I understand that completely.
    Jaydee Atkins Ager

  8. Harold Koopowitz, California
    Harold Koopowitz, California
    November 19, 2017 at 4:29 pm


    I suspect that there are quite a few genera that are about the same size and as variable as our wonderful Narcissus. One that comes to mind is Gladiolus. There are lots of species in that genus that you would not recognize as being a glad. Also the slipper orchids come to mind as well.

    Now onto pound cake. I am particularly fond of pound cake filled with glace cherries.