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These plants, funghi and insect illustrations
are part of my botanical oracle deck

Narcissus poeticus | Poet’s Narcissus

Botanical Overview of Poet’s Narcissus

  • Scientific Name: Narcissus poeticus

  • Common Names: Poet’s Narcissus, Poet's Daffodil, Pheasant's Eye, Pinkster Lily

  • Family: Amaryllidaceae

  • Description: Poet’s narcissus is a perennial bulbous plant notable for its striking white flowers with a small, red-rimmed yellow cup (corona) at the center. Each flower typically has six flat, white perianth segments and emits a sweet, strong fragrance. The plant grows up to 40 cm tall and features long, narrow, green leaves that emerge from the base. It blooms in late spring to early summer, often making a dramatic addition to gardens and natural landscapes.

narcissus poeticus botanical illustration

Properties of Poet’s Narcissus

  • Chemical Constituents: Contains alkaloids such as lycorine, galanthamine, and narciclasine, as well as essential oils that contribute to its fragrance.

  • Edibility: All parts of the plant, especially the bulb, are highly toxic if ingested. Narcissus species are known for their toxic properties and should not be consumed. The plant’s bulbs can cause severe gastrointestinal distress, convulsions, and even death if ingested in large quantities.

Distribution and Habitat of Poet’s Narcissus

  • Native Range: Southern Europe, particularly the Pyrenees and Alps.

  • Preferred Habitat: Poet’s narcissus thrives in moist, well-drained soils and prefers full sun to partial shade. It is commonly found in meadows, grassy slopes, and woodland clearings. In cultivation, it is often planted in gardens, parks, and naturalized areas where it can grow in clusters.

Medicinal Properties and Uses of Poet’s Narcissus

  • Traditional Uses: Historically, various Narcissus species have been used in folk medicine despite their toxicity. They were sometimes used in small, controlled doses for their sedative and emetic properties. In ancient Greece, the plant was occasionally used to induce vomiting or as a poultice to relieve aches and pains, although its use was always cautious due to its potent toxicity.

  • Modern Applications: Due to the toxic nature of Poet’s Narcissus, it is not widely used in modern herbal medicine. However, certain alkaloids extracted from the plant, such as galanthamine, have been studied for their potential use in treating Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive disorders. These compounds can inhibit acetylcholinesterase, an enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine, thereby increasing neurotransmitter levels and potentially improving memory and cognitive function.

Magical Correspondences and Uses in Magical Practice of Poet’s Narcissus

  • Element: Water

  • Planet: Venus

  • Magical Properties: Protection, renewal, self-reflection, and beauty.

  • Uses: In magical practices, Poet’s Narcissus is often associated with protection and renewal. The plant is used in spells and rituals to ward off negative energy and safeguard against harm. Placing the flowers in the home or creating a protective charm with dried petals can help create a barrier against malicious influences. The reflective and introspective qualities of Poet’s Narcissus make it a powerful aid in meditation and self-discovery. The flowers are sometimes used in rituals to promote inner peace, self-love, and emotional healing. Due to its strong association with beauty and the divine, Poet’s Narcissus is also used in rituals dedicated to deities of love and beauty, seeking their blessings for personal charm and attractiveness.

Folklore, Legends, and Mythology of Poet’s Narcissus

  • Historical Context: Poet’s Narcissus has a rich cultural history, deeply intertwined with Greek mythology. Its name is derived from the tragic tale of Narcissus, a beautiful youth who fell in love with his own reflection and was transformed into the flower that bears his name. This myth has made the narcissus a symbol of self-love, vanity, and introspection.

  • Folklore: In European folklore, Poet’s Narcissus was often considered an omen of death or bad luck if brought indoors, likely due to its strong scent and toxic properties. Despite this, it was also valued for its protective qualities, believed to repel evil spirits and misfortune when planted near homes or worn as an amulet.

  • Mythology: The most famous myth associated with Poet’s Narcissus is the Greek legend of Narcissus. According to Ovid's "Metamorphoses," Narcissus was a handsome youth who was cursed to fall in love with his reflection in a pool of water. Unable to look away, he eventually pined away and died, and the gods transformed him into the narcissus flower. This mythological background has cemented the flower's symbolism of self-obsession, beauty, and the fleeting nature of life and love.

Historical Literary Sources

  • Ovid’s "Metamorphoses": Describes the myth of Narcissus and the origin of the narcissus flower, highlighting its connection to themes of self-love and transformation.

  • Pliny the Elder’s "Natural History": Discusses various Narcissus species, including their medicinal uses and the dangers of their toxicity.

  • Theophrastus’ "Enquiry into Plants": Provides early botanical descriptions and insights into the cultivation and properties of narcissus plants in ancient times.


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