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Wild Daffodils of NC

I'm waiting for the avid gardeners to rebut against my post title, and tell me that there is no such thing as a wild daffodil.  It is a bulb that must be purposefully planted, and cultivated.  I will let them argue their point, because they are half right.  As for the other gardeners, who wish to tell me that there are indeed wild daffodils growing in NC, you are also half right.  It is both of these rights, that I wish to write about.

Daffodils, in any form, are not native to North America.  They were brought over by the early European settlers, and purposefully planted by those who wished to carry on the lovely gardens that they cherished back home.  Luckily, the climate of the areas that were originally colonized lent itself beautifully to the thriving of the flower, and it stuck.  And so it was planted in simple beds around cut log homes, and later, used to embellish lavish gardens of the southern plantations.

So, how did they become wild, you ask?  Well, daffodils do produce seeds.  And while squirrels are busy digging up the bulbs for a yummy snack, the flower is sometimes destroyed, tearing open the bulbous green pod behind the flower head.  The seeds are then spread in various ways, and new flowers will grow, wherever they land.  Unlike a bulb, a seed can take up to five years to produce a flower.


(not my original photo)

But there is another, more interesting tale behind much of the wild growing daffodils in central North Carolina, as I've learned from a ranger in a local state park.  As I trudged up an inclining hiking trail, sweaty, and muscles aching their protest, I was encouraged by a tiny patch of daffodils, growing mid-hill.  Their sunny smile made the rest of hike worth the effort.  Our trail ended at the park's welcome center, and I went inside to get some information about camping and fishing.  As I commented on the lovely wild flowers on the path, my story was met with a smile, and an unexpected lesson in local history.

The land that now hosts this large protected forest, was once a sprawling plantation.  Evidence of this exists in the stony foundations of buildings (outhouses, mill houses, and even slave quarters) that still stand as shadows of their former selves, grown over by weeds and moss, and surrounded by oaks and pines.  Standing in the forest, you can even still see the rolling waves of earth, that were once the ploughed fields of the farm. 

So, what about the flowers?  Well, perhaps the squirrels assisted some seeds in their escape.  Perhaps some bulbs were uprooted by a heavy rain, and carried down the hill by a rushing creek, that may not presently exist.  Or perhaps wherever they stand is where they were originally planted by the mistress of the manor all those years ago.

So, when I see wild daffodils standing alone in an unusual spot, blending in with their surroundings, and yet sticking out like a sore thumb, I have to stop and wonder if I'm looking at the ghosts of the golden days of the antebellum south.

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A modified version of this post was published on WisdomNinja.

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