Happy Easter! Daffodils say it best.

Photo by Raymond JC Cannon

The colour yellow seems almost synonymous with Easter, perhaps associated with the coming of sunny days? Or egg yolks and chicks? Daffodils seem to express this time of year better than any other flower I think.😊

Photo by Raymond JC Cannon

In Narcissus flowers like daffodils, the yellow-to-orange range of colours are produced by carotenoid and flavonoid pigments. Different types and quantities of these compounds, in particular a natural xanthophyll pigment with an orange colour, called violaxanthin , together with the total carotenoid content are the main factors which affect flower colour (Li et al., 2015).

Daffodils of one form or another are said to have grown in England since before the 14th century, according to an English Heritage blog. But it was the Victorians who really got going with breeding different types and creating many of the varieties we see today.

Fig 1. from Li et al. (2015) Flowers of narcissus cultivars: avalon (A), decoy (B), gigantic star mutation (C), jack snipe (D), lemon beauty (E), marieke (F), mondragon (G), mount hood (H), pink charm (I), pinza mutation (J), shangnong dieying (K), shangnong ruhuang (L), slim whitman (M), spellbinder (N), valdrome (O). Open Access publication.

Modern breeding has produced lots of other varieties of course, like this one (below) where the xanthophyll pigment is confined to the central corona.

Photo by Raymond JC Cannon

We have our own wild daffodil in the UK of course (Narcissus pseudonarcissus). The best place to see it in England is in the Farndale valley in the North York Moors National Park. One wild daffodil which we do not have in England, but can be seen in France, Portugal and Spain, is the hoop-petticoat daffodil, Narcissus bulbocodium. It really is a pretty little flower (below).

Petticoat daffodil, Narcissus bulbocdium. Galicia, Spain. Photo by Raymond JC Cannon

There are lots of other yellow flowers which appear in Spring of course. It seems to be a colour purposefully evolved to attract insects! So, I’ll finish by featuring a few of the other yellow treasures.

Reference

Li, X., Lu, M., Tang, D., & Shi, Y. (2015). Composition of carotenoids and flavonoids in narcissus cultivars and their relationship with flower color. PLoS One10(11), e0142074. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0142074

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