Are We Seeing The Death Of The Daffodil?

The symbol of summer is a dying breed!

That’s right… the daffodil may be on the verge of extinction – at least in its true form that is.

Experts claim that the iconic British flower is becoming a rarity – even in the wild – due to cross-pollination with ever more flamboyant varieties available in supermarkets and garden centres.

It follows previous warnings aimed at places like the Lake District, which have been incorporating cross-pollination in several areas of land, including larger, hardier varieties – some of which are too big and boisterous for the humble daffodil to compete with.

Now, English Heritage, guardian of some of the UK’s most important historic gardens, is acting by ordering a mass autumn planting campaign, which will see over 25,000 bulbs (of the native strains of daffodil) planted across highly populated and rural areas across the country.

As well as daffodils, the team will also be planting many bluebells too.

Bluebells have also recently come under threat because of the spread of a larger, less fragrant Spanish variety.

As well as planting the two flowers at its properties, the organisation is handing out bulbs to visitors to take home to plant in their own gardens to help promote the native varieties.

John Watkins, Head of Gardens and Landscapes at English Heritage said;

“Native daffodils and bluebells, as well as the historic cultivated varieties, are a vital part of our horticultural and cultural heritage, inspiring gardeners and poets alike.’’

“Our native species and historic cultivars are increasingly under threat from cross-pollination with non-native species and hybrids that flower at the same time.

“The resulting offspring will be hybrids and likely to outperform and out-compete the native species. Historic gardens and landscapes are often the last refuge for ancient cultivars and native species.

“Our major spring bulb planting campaign – across some of the most important historic gardens in England – will help arrest that national decline and ensure that the daffodil celebrated and enjoyed by visitors today and in the future.”

Lovers of the native wild flower have also become vocal in their criticism of the ever-dying daffodil. Especially the practice of planting clumps of garden varieties on roadside verges etc, condemning it as nothing but horticultural ‘bling’.

In 2010 one conservationist, Dr Andy Tasker, the former chief executive of the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust, launched a one-man campaign against the practice, likening efforts to brighten up road verges and picnic spots with modern strains of daffodil as “like painting lipstick on the Mona Lisa”.

More recently though, Dr. Tasker’s thoughts have been taken on board by a new generation of horticulturists. Especially considering the news on daffodils.

Trudy Bennett, a farmer and horticulture expert from West Glamorgan said;

‘‘People need educating, especially the younger generation.’’

‘‘For those who love gardening, plants are like animals, so seeing one of the most beautiful plants on the edge of extinction is really quite sad.

‘‘I really appreciate what English Heritage are doing, but they need help. We should all plant some original daffodils in our local community.’’

Daffodil fact file:

Common name: Daffodil

Latin name: Narcissus

Group: Bulb

Flowering time: Typically, February to early May

Planting time: September and October

Height and Spread: commonly 5cm (2in) to 50cm (20in)

Hardiness: Mostly fully hardy

For tips and advice on how to grow your own plants (among other things), visit The Royal Horticultural Society’s webpage.