Daffodils are naturally suited to the growing conditions in Ireland. These hardy, perennial bulbs, whose preferred habitat is deciduous woodland, flower in early Spring before leaves form on the trees.
Wild daffodils are native woodland plants in much of western Europe, including England and Wales but it is claimed that they are not native to Ireland which is surprising to me because when I lived in a remote area near Muff in Donegal there were three of four fields near our house which were full of “wild daffodils” every March. Our nearest neighbour was about a mile away and there were no gardens nearby.
The true wild daffodil is small with a trumpet that is darker yellow than the surrounding petals. However, most if not all of the daffodils flowering in the wild in Ireland at present are garden escapees. They survive well in the wild because they protect themselves from grazing animals by containing an alkaloid poison called lycorine. The highest concentration is in the bulbs but it’s also present in the foliage and flowers. Lycorine is also poisonous to humans and there are recorded cases of illness and even death, usually caused when people mistake the bulb for an onion.
“I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” (also commonly known as “Daffodils”) is a lyric poem by William Wordsworth. It is one of his most popular, and was inspired by a forest encounter on 15 April 1802 between he, his younger sister Dorothy and a “long belt” of daffodils. Written in 1804, it was first published in 1807 in Poems, in Two Volumes, and as a revision in 1815.
I wandered lonely as a cloud That floats on high o’er vales and hills, When all at once I saw a crowd, A host of golden daffodils; Beside the lake, beneath the trees, Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine and twinkle on the Milky Way, They stretched in never-ending line along the margin of a bay: Ten thousand saw I at a glance, tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they Out-did the sparkling waves in glee: A poet could not but be gay, in such a jocund company: I gazed—and gazed—but little thought what wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie In vacant or in pensive mood, They flash upon that inward eye Which is the bliss of solitude; And then my heart with pleasure fills, And dances with the daffodils.