“DAFFODILS IN MY RUCKSACK” was the intriguing title of the talk given to The Littleton and Harestock Gardening Club. The rucksack belongs in fact to Derrick Donnison Morgan, who studied as a botanical horticulturalist at Chelsea Physic Garden, London, and the University of Plymouth. He lived in South Eastern Spain for nine years where he studied plants, in particular Narcissus, and has organized and led Naturetrek tours to various parts of Europe.
Narcissus is a genus of perennial plants in the Amaryllidaceae family. Derrick showed us many slides, illustrating the multiplicity of the forms of narcissus, (especially the wild flowers he seeks out and identifies), together with their Latin names. Daffodils all have a delicate beauty and are so prolific and widespread that they are in flower somewhere for ten months of the year, depending on climate and location. Autumn flowering forms are not hardy in the UK, but can be found, together with others, in Spain, Portugal, Morocco and Andorra. Height is variable: dwarf species have a maximum height of 5-8 cms whilst N.tazetta may grow to 80cms. Left undisturbed some narcissi will spread: one slide showed a carpet of gold in a meadow. Native habitats are varied, predominantly open spaces but also crevices in rocks. They prefer acidic soil, but some will grow on limestone. Colours can range from pure white through to a rich yellow, sometimes with an orange centre, and some are sweet scented, to attract their insect pollinators.
Narcissus were well known in ancient civilizations, were distributed by Man and were probably brought into Southern countries by the Romans. They hybridise easily and dedicated horticulturalists like Derrick are committed to maintaining the original forms of the wild species. He is in the process of making a map of sites of N.pseudonarcissus in Hampshire and hopes people who discover a hybrid form will notify the Isle of Wight Trust, (so as to keep the form “clean”)
Time unfortunately allowed for only an introduction to a wide – ranging study by Derrick, an experienced, knowledgeable plant-hunter and professional Consultant.