There are some plants that are so ubiquitous in horticulture that I almost forget that they have wild constituents. Every plant in our gardens can trace its lineage back to the wild. As is often the case, I find the wild congeners of our most beloved horticultural curiosities to be far more fascinating. Take, for instance, the genus Narcissus. Who doesn't recognize a daffodil? The same cannot be said for their wild cousins. In fact, there exists some pretty fantastic species within this genus including a small handful of species that flower in autumn.
A unique fall flowering daffodil is a species known scientifically as Narcissus viridiflorus. This lovely little plant is quite restricted in its range. You will only find it growing naturally in a small region around Gibraltar where it is restricted to rich, clay and/or rocky soils. During years when it is not in flower, N. viridiflorus produces spindly, rush-like leaves. As such, it can be hard to find.
When Narcissus viridiflorus does decide to flower, it forgoes leaf production. From the bulb arises a single green scape. From that scape emerges the flower. The flowers of this bizarre daffodil are decidedly not very daffodil-like. They are rather reduced in form, with long, slender green petals and a nearly nonexistent daffodil cone. Also, they are green. Though I have not seen this investigated directly, it has been suggested that the green scape and flowers contain enough chlorophyll that they plant can recoup at least some of the energy involved in producing flowers and eventually seed.
The flowers themselves open at night and are said to be very fragrant. Again, no data exists on who exactly pollinates this species but the timing, color, and smell all suggest nocturnal insects like moths. Like the other daffodils of this region, Narcissus viridiflorus is poorly understood. Taken in combination with its limited distribution one can easily see how such a species may be quite vulnerable to human disturbance. As it stands now, this species and many of its cousins are no more than horticultural curiosities for more niche bulb societies. In other words, Narcissus viridiflorus is in need of some real attention.
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