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Dangerous Daffodils

Illustration_Narcissus_poeticus0Here in North Carolina we had a late burst of winter but it hasn’t slowed down the flowers!  My daffodils are now in full bloom.  Hopefully the flowers are coming up where you are too – or they will be soon.

Daffodils (also known as jonquils or narcissus and related to paperwhites) are usually one of the first flowers to pop up in the spring.  However, you don’t often see them in bouquets with other early spring flowers.  The stem of the daffodil contains a sticky sap that will leak into the water and clog the stems of other flowers so that they cannot take up water and therefore wilt quickly.

Try this!  The sap is also irritating to the skin and can cause a rash so find some rubber gloves to wear first.  Cut a daffodil and starting near the flower, squeeze the stem as you move downward.  You should see a clear, slimy sap drip out of the bottom of the stem.  This is the substance that causes all the problems.

Are daffodils doomed to separation from other flowers?  Not necessarily.  There are a few “tricks” that florists use to stop the sap from leaking into the vase and “poisoning” the other flowers.  Do they really work?  Which works best?  Why don’t you try it and find out!

Method 1
Place daffodils in a separate vase or bucket overnight with just enough water to cover the bottom inch or so of the stems.  After twelve hours have passed, rinse the stems and place the daffodils with other flowers.  See how long it takes for the daffodils and other flowers to wilt.
The theory here is that after 12 hours all of the sap will have peeked out of the stems.

Method 2
Add 1/4 teaspoon of bleach to a gallon of water.  Put some of this solution in a vase and soak the daffodil stems for 1 to 6 hours (try different lengths of time to see which is best).  Rinse the stems and place the daffodils with other flowers.  See how long it takes for the daffodils and other flowers to wilt.
For this method it is believed that the bleach treatment neutralizes the sap from affecting other flowers.

Daffodils are also great for dissecting and learning about the different parts of the flower.  Can you identify all the parts here? [Photo credit]

In the last few years scientists have determined, by watching carefully how the flower develops and emerges all the way from the bulb, that the trumpet or inner petals of the flower are actually a new flower part (or organ).

And other scientists have taken some amazing microscopic photos of daffodil parts that are truly fascinating.

Finally, if you need more, here are some interesting facts about the history and folklore of daffodils.