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The narcissistic jonquilPosted Wednesday, February 29, 2012, at 3:53 PM
Photo by Steven Foster For photo prints, go to www.stevenfoster.com/prints.html
The familiar yellow jonquil is a member of the amaryllis family (Amaryllidaceae), Narcissus jonquilla. Yes, the scientific genus name Narcissus is also the common name of this plant group. There are 27 species of wild narcissus, all from Europe, and all but one originating in the Mediterranean region.
The name Narcissus, Latinized from the Greek narkissos or perhaps narke, means "stupor" arises because the fragrance of some narcissus species have an "intoxicating" or calming effect on the nerves. It is also the same word root of narcotic -- a substance capable of producing as state of narcosis -- a word that emerged in 17th-century English to describe something that "makes numb," or creates a state of stupor or drowsiness.
The fragrant essential oil of various narcissus species is used as a scent in perfumery. Of course, our jonquils create a state of cheer with the impending passing of winter.
Since jonquils and their brother, Narcissi, (represented by only 27 species) have been grown as garden ornamentals not for centuries, but millennia, and because they hybridize readily, there are well over 10,000 named cultivars of jonquils and their narcissistic relatives -- presumably enamored of their own grandiose self beauty in the face of less spectacular spring flowers.
Yes, the psychological and psychoanalytical characterization of narcissism arose out of the emerging science of psychology in the late nineteenth century, and shares the same Greek word root. All, of course, harken back to the mythological figure Narcissus, a proud, handsome hunter from the Greek territory of Thespiae in Boetia (which would also make Narcissus a Thespian, I suppose).
The Narcissus of the classic version of Ovid's book 3 of Metamorphoses, completed in the 8th century AD gives us the best known version of the myth of Narcissus who died gazing at his own reflection in a pool of water; a gaze he could not break while enamored by his own beauty. Other versions of the myth, date to the year 50 BC or earlier.
Like the mythological Narcisssus, it is impossible to break our gaze from the pending prospect of full blown-springtime in the face of the beauty of the blooming narcissistic jonquil.
Steven Foster is a world renowned botanical photographer. He has published many books, including 2 for National Geographic
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