Daffodil Origins, Lore, and Traditions 

Original Illustration 
by Cicely Mary Barker


While it is easy to be infatuated with the colors, forms and fragrances of the daffodil, a real relationship is built upon knowledge of its origins, lore and traditions, as well as its sentiment and symbolism.  Just as love among people is based on intimate knowledge, so too for the daffodil lover. 

The following was gleaned from the Internet:


Plant lore tells us that daffodils bring good fortune to the person who avoids trampling on them, so watch where you step!


The daffodil is a symbol of rebirth - a sign of the new beginnings that come with spring. Daffodils are often found connected with Easter and Easter religious services because of their new birth significance.

Daffodils are the birthday flower of March, the same month as the spring equinox that heralds the beginning of a new season. 

Never give a single daffodil, as bringing a single daffodil into the house will bring misfortune.  

Always give a bunch to ensure happiness. 

In Wales finding the first daffodil of spring is expected to bring more gold than silver to your life and home during the following 12 months.  

The daffodil is associated with Lent, the 40 days of fasting and penitence before Easter Sunday in most Christian churchesand is known as the "Lenten Lilly" in England. There is a legend that the daffodil first appeared on the night of The Last Supper in the Garden of Gethsemane to comfort Jesus in his hour of sorrow.

~ Courtesy, Danny Halborn, 1999

Because all the animals loved St. Francis, he was gifted with a nest of colored eggs.  His constant companion, a rabbit, asked the daffodil for its yellow color to color the lark's eggs; the crocus, for its blue color; and the violet, for its purple color. St. Francis was so pleased with the gift that he said a basket of colored eggs would return as an Easter gift forever, in memory of the first Easter rabbit.  

The daffodil is the American Cancer Society's symbol of new life and hope that a cure for cancer will be found. "You see a daffodil and know there's hope," says Debbie Jaramillo, volunteer chair, California Division Daffodil Days. "And with hope, there's a cure. They're a burst of sunshine, a ray of hope. Even if it is still cold outside, you know there's warmth and light ahead."

You can spread it with a hug.
You can catch it from a smile.
And you can celebrate it with a flower.
It's a miracle we call Hope.
~ Daffodil Days, California

Poetess Dame Edith Sitwell, upon meeting Marilyn Monroe, compared her to a daffodil.





Narcissus (another name for the daffodil), meaning - "narcissism", which comes from "narke, " the Ancient Greek work for deep sleep, stupor or numbness. Narke is also the root of the word "narcotic." 

The name is probably a reference to a toxic paralyzing alkaloid contained within narcissi bulbs. The good news is the bulbs taste just awful, making it highly unlikely that anyone could even keep down one bite.

Roman soldiers would carry several bulbs with them and if mortally wounded, they'd chow down on the bulbs.  The bulb would work its narcotic wonder and the soldier would painlessly die. 

According to a Greek myth, a young wood nymph named Echo fell in love with a young man named Narcissus.  He was bestowed with great beauty, by the gods.  He was given the gift of eternal youth and beauty, provided he did not look at his own reflection. 

Self-absorbed, he spurned the affections of Echo, who was consumed by love, until all that was left of her was her voice.  Because of this sad affair, the daffodil signifies unrequited love.

Nemesis, the goddess of retribution and vengeance, led the vain Narcissus to a shimmering mountain lake that mirrored his face. There, at the water's edge , he fell in love with his image and was transfixed, caught in the spell of his beauty.  Every time he tried to touch the image it disappeared in the ripples of water, so instead he simply sat at the water's edge and stared sadly at the reflection. 

The "drooping" of the daffodil symbolizes Narcissus admiring himself.

The Gods thought that Narcissus would die of hunger if he remained there any longer so they turned him into a scented flower which, to this day blossoms in the mountains in spring and which is still called Narcissus.  

Thus, the daffodil symbolizes unrequited love, vanity and excessive self-love. The center of the daffodil cup is said to contain the tears of Narcissus.

The word "Daffodil" didn't come into the English language until the 1500s. The old name for daffodil was “Affodyle,” believed to originate with the Old English “Affo dyle,” meaning “that which cometh early.” It ultimately derived from Dutch de affodil meaning "the asphodel"(of Greek mythology).  

And it is in asphodel-covered meadows (Homer) that the souls of the dead wandered, and thus the Greek related the flower with death.  

According to this legend it was here that Hades captured Persephone after she had strayed from her companions to pick some daffodils. 



Persephone, down in the land of the dead, wore a crown of the flowers.  She wore this crown for " it is symbolic of the one flower (life) that comes back in the spring, (often the first 'bulb' flower to do so besides snow crocus) whose leaves while laying fallow in winter, have actually fed the rhizome under the cold ground, thereby " increasing the root" while "looking dead." Persephone IS the return of the light (sun's longer days that signals that the time of seeming deadness is over....) The little flower she bent down to cup in the field  was likely signalling that it is time for the darkening, the underground time, to begin." ~ pinkolaestes

Daffodils are believed to have been brought to Britain by the Romans, who mistakenly believed that its sap could heal wounds. In fact, daffodil sap contains sharp crystals that prevent animals from eating the flower. While it did little to heal the Romans' wounds, it succeeded in further irritating their skin.

While daffodils can be taken to say, "My fond hopes have been dashed by your behavior," they mostly say, "You're the only one. The sun is always shining when I'm with you."  

As a spring flower that blossoms when the sun begins to shine, it expresses the joy one has when in the presence of one’s partner, signifying love, regard, and respect.

A woman giving daffodils to a man has noticed that he is chivalrous.




A lesser-known epithet when applied to soldiery is to be called a daffodil.  Apparently this means that they are nice to look at but yellow through and through. 

This term was apparently used by the British in official correspondence during WWII, referring to the "Australian daffodils"  that lost Singapore.  

Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of OZ

Old English folklore also discourages from bringing daffodils into the house when poultry are sitting on eggs. 

They believed they would stop their poultry laying eggs or the eggs hatching.  A variant of this lore is the number of goslings that will be hatched and reared is the same as the number of daffodil flower stems that are brought into the house in the first bouquet of the year.


The leek is the national emblem of Wales. The story behind the daffodil is a charming one and representative of the Welsh characteristics of humour and pragmatism. The Welsh for leek is Cenhinen and the Welsh for Daffodil is Cenhinen Pedr (Peter's leek).  Over the years they became confused and so the daffodil along with the leek was adopted as another emblem of Wales. 
The trendy Welsh of today often substitute the daffodil for the leek, for though it possesses the necessary green stem and white bulb of its companion, it looks more attractive and certainly smells better.  It makes a more attractive buttonhole on St. David's day. Daffodils and newborn lambs herald the spring in Wales.

The leek or daffodil is one of the royal badges for Wales and the daffodil often appears in conjunction with the Tudor Rose (a combination of the red and white roses) (for England), the Thistle (for Scotland) and the Shamrock (for Ireland), often entwined together.


According to an old legend, the wild daffodils open their buds on March the First. 

It is celebrated as  the feast day of the patron saint of Wales, St. David, who brought Christianity to West Wales and lived in close contact with nature.

Prince Charles of England is paid one daffodil annually as rent for the unattended lands of the Isles of Scilly.


Chinese lore says that  the daffodil flower brings good luck for the next twelve months if forced to bloom during the New Year.





If one is enclosed in a small space with daffodils, the scent will induce a headache. 




Courtesy of www.kingcards.com
The Arabians used this flower as an aphrodisiac.  

Medieval Arabs used the juice of the walk daffodil as a cure for baldness.






And with the story of Narcissus's unhappy ending in mind, daffodils are not recommended at weddings, lest they bring unhappy vanity to the bride.



  • The Italians have their own legend:  The Legend of Zita.

  • The Egyptians often hung wreaths of narcissus during funerals. 

  • In medieval Europe, it was believed that if a daffodil drooped when you looked at it, it was an omen of death.

  • The daffodil was accepted by the Druids as their national flower, symbolizing purity. 

  • A superstition in Maine states that you will cause a daffodil not bloom if you point at it with an index finger. 

>> P. Allen Smith:  Daffodil History & Lore

>> Next:  Daffodil Art (Beautiful!)


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