(Last updated 1/28/06)

Daffodil fields at Wooden Shoe Bulb Company in Woodburn, with Mt. St. Helens in the background (left). Due to weather conditions the tulips were late in '99, but fortunately for me the daffys were still in bloom during what turned into the first of several visits that season. Wooden Shoe started growing daffodils about 10 years ago and has a wide selection available, but they're not usually featured in its spring show "because in the field they just aren’t as pretty as tulips"

Daffodils, a name which includes the cluster-flowered yellow jonquils (left) and the white narcissi (paperwhites; center) as well as the more common trumpet shaped flowers (right), are members of the genus Narcissus (from the Greek "narke," for numbness or stupor). Botanists list at least 50 species, as well as many natural hybrids; these are native mainly to the Mediterranean region, in particular to the Iberian Peninsula, but also to Northern Africa and the Middle East.

Grown extensively by the ancient Greeks and especially by the Romans, daffodils nevertheless became a forgotten flower until about 1600, and even in 1860 there were fewer than 350 cultivated hybrids. However, in 1865 the landmark Emperor and Empress trumpet hybrids were introduced, daffodil popularity soared, and today the Royal Horticultural Society lists over 26,000 cultivars in its official registry.

A significant number of these varietiess, especially of unusual color or shape, were developed by the internationally recognized Willamette Valley hybridizers Grant Mitsch of Canby, who introduced more than 600 varieties during a career that started in the early 1930s, and Murray and Estella Evans of Corbett, who introduced more than 200 varieties in the '60s and 70s. (After the mid-'70s, the work of these specialty growers was continued by Mitsch's daughter Elise and her husband Richard Havens, and the Evans' niece Diane and her husband Bill Tribe, both of Hubbard, reinforced by a group of more recent transplants, including Steve Vinisky of Sherwood, Walter Blom of Albany, and David Karnstedt of Silverton, who arrived in Oregon in the late '80s and early '90s.)

The modern classification of daffodils, which dates only from the 1950s, was most recently updated in July of 1998, changing the classification scheme from eleven to thirteen descriptive divisions. For classification purposes, the daffodil is divided into two regions, perianth (petals) and corona (cup). The color of each part, which can vary from pure white, to yellow, orange, red,...

...and even bright pink (a color introduced mainly by Mitsch and Evans), is specified in the description.

Division is determined by the relative length of cup to petal - Trumpet (Division 1; left), Long-cupped (Division 2; center), and Short-cupped (Division 3; right),...

...the shape of the cup (the Split-Cupped of Division 11; left), or species origin, reflected in the number of blooms per stem, as in the Jonquillas (Division 7) and Tazettas (Division 8; center), aspect of the bloom, as in the Triandrus, which hang like bells and usually have two or more blooms per stem (Division 5; right),...

...the swept-back petals of the Cyclamineus (Division 6; left), and the green-tinged, ringed "eye" of the Poeticus (Division 9; center). Doubles (right) have their own division (Division 4),...

...as do "hoop petticoat" Bulbocodium species and hybrids (Division 10; left), and the wild species and their hybrids that have only botanical names (Division 13; center). Miniatures - daffodils with blooms less than 1 1/2 inches in diameter - are classified by the same criteria and assigned to the same divisions as their full sized counterparts, eg, these mini-jonquillas (Division 7; right) .

(Many of the above pix were taken at the Amity Daffodil Festival, a showcase for both commercial and amateur hybridizers and collectors, held annually in this tiny Willamette Valley town's local elementary school's gymnasium!)

Interesting links: American Daffodil Society | Daffodil Links

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