Daffodils: The Language of Flowers

It was the end of a pleasant evening. The horticultural society audience had enjoyed my talk on Daffodils and there were some interesting and amusing questions. However the final question momentarily had me stumped. “Different flowers have different meanings and messages –if red roses mean love what does the Daffodil stand for?”

My mind flashed back to my postcard collection. I knew I had an old black and white old photo postcard where the daffodil had been related to “Esteem”. There is also an old Language of Flowers series circa 1905 that attributes “Regard” to the daffodil.  I also thought of the Greek myth of Narcissus, the beautiful boy who became enamoured with his own reflection and therefore a connection to “Egotism” and “Vanity”.

On returning home I thought I ought to look into this a little more. According to Wikipedia It seems that the language of flowers is sometimes called Florigraphy. The idea was first encouraged in England in 1716 by Lady Mary Wortley, wife of the English ambassador to Turkey, who observed this tradition at the Sultan’s court.  The idea grew and in Victorian times flowers and flower arrangements were used to send coded messages to allow people to express feelings they dared not speak.

It seems that not only did the flower convey meaning but where it was worn was crucial too. A marigold worn in the hair implied “Mental anguish” but placed at the bosom meant “Indifference”. Quite a difference!

Wikipedia suggests that Daffodil are associated with “Regard” but there is also a listing of the Symbolic meaning of flowers in which the daffodil is associated with “Uncertainty”, “Chivalry” “Respect” or “Unrequited love”.  Chivalry seems to be especially associated with the great yellow daffodil but another reference links daffodils to deceit. Now I really was confused.

The Flowers and Plants association’s  website lists the Daffodil as meaning  “Regard” or “Chivalry” but has a separate meaning for Narcissus suggesting  “Self esteem” and the rather assertive “Female ambition”

The strong association of the Daffodil with Easter makes an association with “Re-birth” and “New beginnings” more obvious.

I hadn’t given much thought to the fact that the meaning of flowers is also interpreted differently in other parts of the world. So in China, it is associated with “Good fortune” and in Japan, “Mirth and Joyousness”. A French Language of Flowers postcard attributes the Narcisse with “Esperance” – “Hope”.

As you can see I began to wish I hadn’t started looking into the subject, with a bit more research there seemed to be enough material for another talk rather than a straightforward answer to what I first thought was a simple question.

However one piece of advice I can give you to avoid mixing your messages. It seems to receive one daffodil implies “Misfortune” whilst several daffodils mean “Joy and Happiness”.  I can think of no better reason to grow and give daffodils in plenty.