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Narcissus

Narcissus, a genus of Amaryllidaceae, including twenty or thirty beautiful species, natives of Europe and Asia, nearly all of them easily cultivated in England, where, as Shakespeare says, they

"Come before the swallow flares, and take
The winds of March with beauty."

They are bulbous plants, some having flat, and others round, rush-like leaves, whence the name Jonquil, a corruption of juncifolius, "rush-leafed." Their hollow radical scapes bear either one flower, as in the common daffodil (N. pseudo-narcissus), or several, as in N. Jonquilla and N. Tazetta, the flowers, in either case, having a sheathing membranous spathe. The perianth is generally some shade of yellow; but in the Poet's or Pheasant's-eye Narcissus it is white. It varies much in the length of its tube and the size and direction of its six segments, and in the size, shape, and colour of its characteristic "coronet" or corona, which encloses the six stamens and the style of the inferior three-chambered ovary. The coronet is hardly ever of the same shade as the perianth. In the white Poet's Narcissus it is yellow and edged with red. This coronet originates apparently by co-radial chorisis from the perianth. Their early spring beauty has made the genus a favourite with all poetic minds. Mahomet wrote, "He that has two loaves, let him sell one and buy a flower of the narcissus; for bread is the food of the body, but narcissus is food for the soul"; and it was of daffodils that Keats wrote, "A thing of beauty is a joy for ever." Our one lovely British species, the common daffodil (N.pseudo-narcissus), is also called the Lent lily.

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