Colin Mills, compiler of the Hortus Camdenensis, died in late November 2012 after a short illness. As he always considered the Hortus his legacy, it is his family's intention to keep the site running in perpetuity. It will not, however, be updated in the near future.

Narcissus poeticus L.

Robust, variable bulbous perennial with erect, narrow, strap-like leaves and solitary, fragrant flowers with flat, pure white perianths and tiny, red-rimmed, yellow cups in spring.  To 50cm.  [RHSE, Hortus, Baker Am.].  

Horticultural & Botanical History


Botanically described by Linnaeus in 1753 [Sp. Pl. p.289/1753].

Curtis’s Botanical Magazine provides some insights into the identification and naming of Narcissus poeticus.  ‘Under the name of poeticus three different species of Narcissus, to us appearing perfectly distinct (though similar in many respects) and regarded as such by the old Botanists, have been confounded by the moderns, viz.

Narcissus albus circulo purpureo, v et vi

Narcissus albus magno odoro flore circulo pallido

Narcissus pallidus circulo luteo – [ of Caspar Bauhin 1560-1624]

Narcissus medio purpureus praecox

Narcissus medio purpureus serotinus

Narcissus medio luteus vulgaris – [ of John Parkinson, 1567-1650, in Paradisis in Sole Paradisus Terrestris].

The first of these, the one here figured is evidently the poeticus of Linnaeus, judging by the authors to whom he refers in the third edition of his Spec. Pl. which are indeed few in number, and confined chiefly to Bauh. Pin. and Dodonaeus; of the second, and third, he takes no notice.

The two former ones of these have the greatest affinity, inasmuch as they both produce for the most part only one flower, of a white colour, having a very short nectary, edged with orange; to both of these Linnaeus’s specific description is equally applicable, as well as the trivial name of poeticus, given them indiscriminately by several of the old Botanists, some regarding the first, some the second, as the plant mentioned by Theocritus, Virgil, and Ovid; unfortunately both of them are found to grow in the same meadows, and have the same obvious appearances, it is therefore utterly impossible to say which of the two was the Narcissus of the poets; if we have the greatest difficulty in ascertaining what the plants were of the Botanists of those times, how are we to discover what the Poets meant, who with very few exceptions have been unpardonably inattentive to the appearances of nature.  Since then the term poeticus is equally suitable to both, and as there cannot be two plants with the same name, we have thought it best to get rid of it altogether, and substitute others which tend in a certain degree to discriminate the several species, donominating the 1st. angustifolius, 2nd. majalis, 3rd. biflorus.

The angustifolius here figured is a native of the South of Europe, and said by Magnol and Clusius to grow spontaneously in the meadows about Narbonne and Montpelier.  It flowers in our gardens early in April, about a month before the bifiorus, and full six weeks sooner than the majalis, increases readily by offsets, and succeeds best in a soil that is moderately moist.  In what respects it differs from the two others, will be mentioned when they come to be figured.’   [BM t.193/1792 as Narcissus angustifolius, Narrow-leaved narcissus].  THS vol.1 p.365/1805-1812.

History at Camden Park

Listed in all published catalogues [B.347/1843].  Received per ‘Sovereign’ in February 1831 under the name of Poet’s narcissus.  [MP A2948].


Narcissus poeticus Huds. (1762) = Narcissus x biflorus Curt. [See Narcissus x medio-luteus Mill.].

Narcissus poeticus Sibth. & Sm. (1806) = Narcissus poeticus L. var. radiiflorus (Salisb.) Baker which see.

Published May 21, 2009 - 05:28 PM | Last updated Jul 16, 2012 - 05:14 PM

Shown are leaves and flower with white perianth and small, red-rimmed yellow cup.  Curtis's Botanical Magazine t.193, 1792.

Narcissus poeticus L. | BM t.193/1792 | BHL


Family Amaryllidaceae
Region of origin


  • Autogenes poeticus (L.) Raf.


Common Name

Poets narcissus, Pheasant eye narcissus

Name in the Camden Park Record

Narcissus poeticus 


Confidence level high