Feral Daffodils revisited

Urban Daffodils brightening the day in Oundle

We are in Daffodil season again – getting towards the end of it in these parts. And, for me (I’ve written about this before), there are good Daffodils and bad Daffodils.

Good Daffodils are either wild Daffodils, and there aren’t any of those around here, or urban/garden Daffodils. I like a nice ‘Daff’ in the right place. They really do make a great splash of colour at this time of year. The ones above, even the white ones (which I tolerate rather than actively like), are very welcome.

But I don’t like feral Daffodils – plonked Daffodils – like the small clump below.

These feral clumps are a visual intrusion – I was slightly surprised that there wasn’t a pile of crashed cars on this corner as drivers had splutteringly lost control of their vehicles after passing this unwanted distraction.

Feral Daffodils are an eyesore, a visual intrusion, a plonked patch of interfering yellowness that disrupts the harmony of the countryside’s colour scheme.

It’s very simple – Daffodils are either wild (good Daffodils) or urban/garden Daffodils (good to goodish Daffodils). Any Daffodil that gets into the countryside outside a 30mph or 40mph limit sign is a feral Daffodil and deserves to be rounded up or shot.


23 Replies to “Feral Daffodils revisited”

  1. Completely agree. We saw some, looked like they had been planted rather than the result of dumped garden waste, flowering amongst the heathery/grassy vegetation in the Peak District moors near Burbage Brook yesterday.

  2. I feel the same way as yourself about feral Daffodils.
    I cycle every couple of days for several miles along a cliff path which has been used by man for thousands of years. It has wild Woodland Primrose (or are they wild?) and some Scottish Primrose. There are lots of ‘wild’ Daffodils among the obviously wild flowers on the tops and slopes of the cliffs.
    Are they really wild Daffodils?
    My knowledge of plants is similar to my knowledge of birds and mammals. I like to see them but I’m not very good at identification. At this time of year, when more of them appear, I welcome them and enjoy them. The welcome for the Daffodils is tempered by knowledge that they could well be the result of tipping of waste over the cliffs in the past, and be garden Daffodils pretending to be wild.

    1. Alex, unless your clifftop path is on the north coast of Sutherland or Caithness, or here in Orkney, the Scottish Primroses are planted intruders.

      1. Andy, my clifftop path is South of Aberdeen, quite far away (just in case people think Aberdeen is close to Caithness) from the truly wild ones. As I have some Scottish Primroses as well as cultivated Daffodils in my garden, perhaps I’m inadvertently adding to the issue.

  3. Coming from the Chilterns and being not too far from certain places in North Hampshire there are small patches of truly wild daffodils in these areas and they are really lovely to see and experience just now. Unfortunately there are often feral clumps of garden based daffodils growing nearby the wild ones posing a major threat of hybridisation. In my opinion the wild daffodils are infinitely prettier than the “man made ones.
    Why does man always have to mess things up?
    The law should be tighten up considerably to only allow the planting of artificial daffodils in private gardens and permitted parks All other non wild daffodils should gradually be removed. The issue of the threat of hybridisation is similar to that threatening the Scottish Wild Cat. Another example of man messing up the natural world.

  4. Agree with you on daffs but not so much on wind turbines. Both plonked in the countryside but one rather more visually distracting and damaging to wildlife than the other. Okay, so they also do some good (the turbines) but is it worth it when they intrude on the eye for so many miles in all directions? At least daffs are only visible at short range and for a couple of months of the year, and they don’t grab you attention by twirling around constantly. I don’t see how you can splutter at something 1 foot high but learn to tolerate something 300 times bigger!

  5. During WW2, when farmers where forced to grow more food to feed the nation, the Daffodil growers on the Scilly Isles lifted their valuable varieties & planted them in the hedges to save them.
    Many are still there growing happily.

  6. I was hoping, and actually expecting you to do another post about bloody daffs Mark. That’s because I’ve been doing a lot of walking recently and have been disgusted at the number of times I’m encountering obviously garden daffodils planted here, there and every bloody where. There’s a wildish public footpath going past a local garden centre and lo and behold someone has taken it upon themselves to plant yucky bright yellow daffs along a fair stretch of it, plus what looks like another bulb species that looks foreign (potential invasive?). My local stretch of the Union canal, which when it hasn’t been mown to death, has the most beautiful assortment of wildflowers I’ve ever seen, has now also been guerilla planted with daffs. I suspect it’s been done by a canal side resident who ensures the canal bank adjacent to his house is ALWAYS close mowed – natural flowers are weeds it seems. Plus another local footpath has been hit. It’s getting bloody ridiculous! It’s not a trivial thing it’s putting out the message real native plants and places aren’t good enough they must remind us of a garden. I’ve mentioned before how a tree planting with local kids was seriously compromised by a nasty old bastard who on the day appropriated most of the site to plant daffs given to him by my council with the understanding that they wouldn’t be planted in the wood – he ignored the council and the kids trying to plant trees. Imagine if a conservation organisation rather than a local resident had acted like that and what criticism they’d get for such arrogance? This mentality goes along with being offended by the sight of dead wood and ivy growing on walls. There’s a nearby major urban conservation initiative where they’ve got big problems with people wanting to put in ornamentals every bloody where. About time councils devoted a significant section of their horticultural work to growing native plants and promoted that to the general public. The issue of daffs is symptomatic of a very serious issue and the conservation organisations need to be upfront in dealing with it, the softly, softly approach isn’t working. You’re right a bit of digging up or even tactical weedkiller use is needed. Thanks again for this blog – where else can we vent our anger about issues like this?

  7. I’ve never been a fan of the feral daffodil or for that matter any garden plants planted out in the wild. Not only do they always look somehow “Wrong” but they are damaging our unique biodiversity and planting them out is arguably against the WCA. In the Nidderdale AONB there are huge swathes of garden Daffs planted along the verges from Pateley Bridge to much further up the Dale, whenever I saw them it always put me in an angry mood. When I complained I was told that they had been planted by parish councils against advice.

  8. This is easily dealt with by giving every rural child a propane weed burner and a picture of a daffodil for their fourth birthday.

  9. Guys, guys, please stop!
    How come you are all getting so worked up about some (didn’t want to be here anyway) daffs, but nobody says a word about the real ‘visual intrusion’ on our highways?
    How can a simple flower cause so much angst while the real problem goes unnoticed?
    Why are so many normally sane people venting their spleens against a splash of colour that will be gone in a few weeks, but remain calm about what they are hiding?

    Please folks, get real. If you want to get worked up about something unsightly, something that will remain on our verges for centuries, then rant against all the bloody litter!
    You are all noticing the daffs because they are only in your sight lines for a month, but you have become inured to the real blight that is there every day on every highway.

    Balloons and farmer’s plastic in our trees and hedgerows. Cans and plastic bottles on our verges. Crisp bags and sandwich packets, old lottery tickets, cigarette butts and packets, all adding ‘colour’ and ‘sparkle’ to our roadways. And you are having a go at?
    The daffodil!!

    Don’t pick on the daffs, pick up the litter.

    1. I’ve also been on a couple of litter picks recently and usually manage to pick up recyclable litter (bottle/can banks are more capacious than litter bins) when out walking and getting pissed off with daffs these days, so it’s not one or the other. I am appalled at how some of the residents living along the local canal go to great lengths to prune and mow the stretches next to their homes, breaking up a wonderful wildlife corridor in the process whilst doing nothing about the crap chucked in the canal – rather confused principles I believe. Enormous effort and expense is spent making large expanses of our urban green space close mowed grass with occasional garish flower beds – and yet we simultaneously have a massive litter problem. If instead those resources were put into conservation and education would we have an urban environment that was far more involving for people, especially children, and one they were far less likely to litter/vandalise? In the long term I believe it would. Bright yellow daffs (and are the varieties planted any use for pollinators at least?) have become ubiquitous and just display an incredible lack of imagination or appreciation for anything that’s not totally superficial – the same attitude that’s wrecking the wildlife value of many of our woods. I wish I could just dismiss this as being a tad pedantic, but surprisingly bitter experience means I can’t.

      1. No, I agree Les, it’s not one thing or the other, but it is about priorities.
        Would I rather have wild flowers over garden varietal daffs? Every time. But we have to be realistic. I live in what is laughing called an AONB, the Lincolnshire Wolds. The fields are huge prairies, what hedgerows are left are flailed to five foot high, 18in wide sticks that are useless for anything to use. Most of our verges are cut several times a year, which by the way, includes mincing up all the litter into thousands of pieces. If it weren’t for the poor innocent pheasants we would have no trees at all, but because of the poor innocent pheasants our other bird life lives in peril.
        It’s an AONB simply because it has a few lumpy bits, unlike most of Lincolnshire.
        I don’t want my countryside to look like it’s been designed by Capability Brown.

        If somebody plants a few daff bulbs, who is to say it’s not out of frustration for all that is missing. Adding a bit of colour in a land devoid of anything natural is a positive, if misguided, thing to do. Adding litter is not!

        I’ve seen a drowned mouse in an upturned, rainfilled crisp packet. I pick up cans that rattle with snails caught inside (depriving something else of dinner). Hedgehogs caught up in plastic beer can holders. Red campion trying to grow through tyres.
        Next time you see a Costa coffee cup chucked out of a car window, just remember what the real Costa is.

        Let’s deal with the litter, then the abuse of our countryside and all that is supposed to inhabit it, then councillors and MPs who don’t care.
        Then, then we may have time to think about feral daffs. Priorities.

        Daffs or litter? What would you rather look at?
        In fact, what would you rather rail against? Priorities.

        1. Yes indeed feral daffs aren’t a priority, but deliberately planting daffs out as part of the ideology that everywhere should look like a suburban garden is a massive issue. It means instead of wildlife habitat extending into urban green space we seem to be going in the opposite direction and the countryside is becoming a traditional garden. Mark Cocker mentioned this in ‘Our Place’. Not exactly stopping the litter problem either. I think it’s very easy to fall in the trap of believing it’s just a few well meaning people trying to do something ‘nice’ for everyone, and some are. But an awful lot won’t be and are the rabid, foaming at the mouth (no exaggeration!) haters of long grass, unpruned hedgerows, the sight of dead wood and ivy. You think litter is the priority please tell that to all those who stop councils from having wildlife meadows in local parks, want canal banks and road verges to look like plastic lawns, and would rather stick ornamental daffodil bulbs in a wild spot than pick up the litter there. We could switch an awful lot of resources from maintaining this sterility to dealing with litter while increasing wildlife habitat at the same time. Our viewpoints aren’t that different really, but I don’t think what Mark has described is a benign or even harmless activity, it represents negative attitudes towards real nature.

    2. I totally agree, Paul.

      I’m trying to get my local council to plant more wildflowers (to be fair, some roundabouts have had poppies planted over the past few years), pick up litter more effectively, mow less often and stop spraying with toxic chemicals.
      I haven’t the energy to bother about which daffodils are tame, which wild, which invaders. And I quite like the look of them too.

    3. I strongly suspect that, apart from the ones clearly planted in straight lines, that many isolated, apparently random clumps of daffodils and other narcissussusses started out as fly-tipped garden trash. Fly-tipping is, IMHO, the biggest casual crime committed by otherwise upright citizens and numerous small bands of organised criminals who take cash payments for providing the service. But The Council is reluctant to act because they would have to send their own Diversity Police round to arrest themselves in the morning.

  10. I’m just going to post again the comment I made two years ago

    “In defence of planted Daffodils

    In my Plantlife days (and long after) I too used to recoil at the sight of cultivated daffodils that had been planted willy nilly across the countryside. My thinking went something along these lines:

    How dare these people, who know nothing about wild plants, desecrate the countryside with these gaudy showy flowers?!

    I have changed my views. Yes I always get an extra sense of pleasure from seeing wild daffodils – though these are often seen in gardens as in the countryside. Does the fact that wild daffodils were ‘originally’ planted in a garden make them less valuable than ones that occur in the countryside (or unknown origin)?

    But someone has taken the care and thought to plant daffodils – on a road verge, or a field edge. It’s always difficult to divine the intentions behind such an act, but it’s reasonable to assume that they are doing it because they think adding some flowers to a particular place will make it more attractive, or even, as someone has suggested above, because that place has a particular meaning to them.

    Yes Parish Councils may now add Daffodils to road verges in a rather less thought through fashion, but the knock on effect is that those road verges do not get mown the instant the sun comes out – which allows other plants to grow and flower with them. I have seen large areas of central London Parks converted into spring and early summer meadows, precisely because the Daffodils are left to to their thing.

    I think the risk of hybridisation between native and cultivars is small to be honest – it’s the usual scare story which is at best a distraction from the big issues we should be tackling.

    The big issue here, the Elephant in the Room, if you will, is that there are so few wild flowers in the typical British countryside now. This makes the clumps of garden Daffs stick out, because they are a splash of colour against a monotonous green background.

    I regularly take a walk here in Dorset. It’s in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, on farm which has been in some form of Agri-Environment Scheme for 20 years at least. I walk along a Parish Boundary hedge which is probably Saxon in origin. I walk for a couple of miles and see not a single Primrose, not a single Bluebell. The only wild plants are nettles, hogweed, cleavers, occasional patches of Dog’s mercury, docks, Ivy and the occasional patch of celandine. I strongly suspect this hedge was “sprayed out” ie herbicide spray was used to remove the wild flora probably in the 60s or 70s. Despite 20 years of AE farming, nothing has returned because there is nowhere for it to return from. Most plants of hedgerows cannot fly back in; they either have large seeds which are carried in, or they creep in vegetatively.

    Railing against cultivated Daffs as some suburbanisation of the “wild” countryside, is an easy distraction. The wild countryside has long gone from most places (certainly in the lowlands), replaced decades ago by industrial farming which affords no place for wildlife.

    Gaudy showy garden Daffodils provide a reminder, as you intimated Mark, of what has gone. Perhaps our anger at these innocent flowers is actually projected guilt and regret.

    Regardless, for most people these flowers bring joy to them, because people inherently gain pleasure from seeing such a clear manifestation of Spring appearing.

    Who are we to tell them they are wrong?”

    And the only other thing I’m going to add is this:

    We must be more thoughtful about the language we use. Talk of invaders, pollution of pure races, the “wrong kind” of nature, feral vs pure.

    It’s dangerous, excluding and elitist.

  11. Miles – good point about these clumps acting as brief guardians against verge cutting.

    As for care re language: Ref. Richard’s Smyth’s thoughtful article in this weeks’ New Statesman — The Green Roots of Fascism.

  12. I agree about the daffodils precluding mowing. In our tiny “village green” planted with daffodils, there are many Cuckoo flowers thriving which would otherwise get mown out before seeding. My current problem is I recently became owner of a garden full of beautiful plants/shrubs but apart from some yew & holly hedging, I can’t think of any that are native. Apart from some Celandine and dandelions in the lawn. Have a look at your own gardens. What native plants, shrubs and trees have you got? Oh, there is also some ivy but it’s variegated.

  13. Agree about daffs. Our village in Devon is also under siege from Spanish bluebells and three cornered leek, although at least the leek/garlic is edible

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