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Narcissus

Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Monocots
Order: Asparagales
Family: Amaryllidaceae
Genus: Narcissus
L.
Subgenera, Species, Subspecies

See text.

Narcissus (pronounced /nɑrˈsɪsəs/)[1] is the botanic name for a genus of mainly hardy, mostly spring-flowering, bulbs in the Amaryllis family native to Europe, North Africa, and Asia. There are also several Narcissus species that bloom in the autumn. Though Hortus Third [2] cites 26 wild species, Daffodils for North American Gardens[3] cites between 50 and 100 excluding species variants and wild hybrids. Through taxonomic and genetic research, it is speculated that over time this number will probably continue to be refined.[4] Daffodil is a common English name, sometimes used now for all varieties, and is the chief common name of horticultural prevalence used by the American Daffodil Society.[5] The range of forms in cultivation has been heavily modified and extended, with new variations available from specialists almost every year.

Flowers of the tazetta-group species Narcissus papyraceus are commonly called paperwhites.

[edit] Description

A daffodil closeup showing the various parts of the flower in detail

All Narcissus species have a central trumpet-, bowl-, or disc-shaped corona surrounded by a ring of six floral leaves called the perianth which is united into a tube at the forward edge of the 3-locular ovary. The seeds are black, round and swollen with hard coat. The three outer segments are sepals, and the three inner segments are petals. Though the traditional daffodil of folklore, poetry, and field may have a yellow to golden-yellow color all over, both in the wild species and due to breeding, the perianth and corona may be variously colored. Breeders have developed some daffodils with double, triple, or ambiguously multiple rows and layers of segments, and several wild species also have known double variants.

Narcissus by Caravaggio

A Boeotian hero whose archaic myth was a cautionary tale warning boys against being cruel to their lovers.

Narcissus or Narkissos (Greek: Νάρκισσος) in Greek mythology was a hero from the territory of Thespiae in Boeotia who was renowned for his beauty. In the various stories he is exceptionally cruel, in that he disdains those who love him. As divine punishment he falls in love with a reflection in a pool, not realizing it was his own, and perishes there, not being able to leave the beauty of his own reflection. Several versions of his myth have survived: one found among the Oxyrhynchus papyri and ascribed to Parthenius; Conon, Narrations, 24, dated to sometime between 36 BCE and 17 CE; Ovid's, from his Metamorphoses;[1] Pausanias', from his Guide to Greece, (9.31.7).


This is a moral tale in which the proud and unfeeling Narcissus is punished by the gods for having spurned all his male suitors. It is thought to have been intended as a cautionary tale addressed to young men.[2] Until recently, the two sources for this version were an epitome of the works of Conon, a Greek contemporary of Ovid, preserved in the Bibliotheca of Photius[3] and the segment in Pausanias, about 150 years after Ovid. A very similar account was discovered among the Oxyrhynchus papyri in 2004, an account that predates Ovid's version by at least fifty years and is thought to have been recorded by Parthenius.

In this story, Ameinias, a young man, loved Narcissus but was spurned. As a way of rebuffing Ameinias, Narcissus gave him a sword, which Ameinias used to kill himself on Narcissus' doorstep; he prayed to Nemesis that Narcissus would one day know the pain of unrequited love. This curse was fulfilled when Narcissus became entranced by his own reflection in a pool. Completing the symmetry of the tale, overcome by repentance, Narcissus took his sword and killed himself. [3


In the tale told by Ovid, thought to have been based on Parthenius' version but altered in order to broaden its appeal,[4] Echo, a nymph, falls in love with a vain youth named Narcissus, who was the son of the blue Nymph Liriope of Thespia. The river god Cephisus had once encircled Leirope with the windings of his streams, and thus trapping her, had seduced the nymph, who gave birth to an exceptionally beautiful boy. Concerned about the welfare of such a beautiful child, Lirope consulted the prophet Teiresias regarding her son's future. Teiresias told the nymph that Narcissus would live to a ripe old age, "if he didn't come to know himself."

When he had reached "his sixteenth year," (fifteen years of age, by modern reckoning) every youth and girl in the town was in love with him, but he haughtily spurned them all.

One day when Narcissus was out hunting stags, Echo stealthily followed the handsome youth through the woods, longing to address him but unable to speak first. When Narcissus finally heard footsteps and shouted "Who's there?", Echo answered "Who's there?" And so it went, until finally Echo showed herself and rushed to embrace the lovely youth. He pulled away from the nymph and vainly told her to leave him alone. Narcissus left Echo heartbroken and she spent the rest of her life in lonely glens, pining away for the love she never knew, until only her voice remained.

Nemesis heard this prayer and sent Narcissus his punishment. He came across a deep pool in a forest, from which he took a drink. As he did, he saw his reflection for the first time in his life and fell in love with the beautiful boy he was looking at, not realizing it was himself. Eventually, after pining away for a while, he realized that the image he saw in the pool was a reflection of himself. Realizing that he could not act upon this love, he tore at his dress and beat at his body, his life force draining out of him. As he died, the bodyless Echo came upon him and felt sorrow and pity. His soul was sent to "the darkest hell" and the narcissus flower grew where he died. It is said that Narcissus still keeps gazing on his image in the waters of the river Styx.[4

Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a personality disorder defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the diagnostic classification system used in the United States, as "a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and a lack of empathy."[1]

The narcissist is described as turning inward for gratification rather than depending on others and as being excessively preoccupied with issues of personal adequacy, power, and prestige.[2] Narcissistic personality disorder is closely linked to self-centeredness. It is also colloquially referred to as "the God complex."

DSM-IV divides personality disorders into three clusters based on symptom similarities.[1] This clustering categorizes the narcissistic personality disorder as a cluster B personality disorder, those personality disorders having in common an excessive sense of self importance. Also in that cluster are the borderline personality disorder, the histrionic personality disorder and the antisocial personality disorder.

The ICD-10 (International Classification of Mental and Behavioral Disorders, published by the World Health Organization in Geneva 1992) regards narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) as "a personality disorder that fits none of the specific rubrics". It relegates it to the category known as "Other specific personality disorders", which also includes the eccentric, "haltlose", immature, passive-aggressive, and psychoneurotic personality disorders.

There are two derivations of the name. One is that of the youth of Greek mythology called Narcissus, who, in at least one of many variations of the tale, became so obsessed with his own reflection as he kneeled and gazed into a pool of water that he fell into the water and drowned. In some variations, he died of starvation and thirst from just sitting by the edge of the pool until he gave out, gazing at his reflection until he died. In both versions, the Narcissus plant first sprang from where he died. The other derivation is that the plant is named after its narcotic properties (narkoa, to numb in Greek). [3]

 
Narcissus 'Geranium'

There are several plurals in common use: "Narcissuses", "Narcissi", and "Narcissus". This last is common in American English but is very rare in British usage. The American Webster's Third New International Dictionary gives plurals in the order "Narcissus", "Narcissuses", and "Narcissi", but the British Compact Oxford English Dictionary lists just "Narcissi" and "Narcissuses".

 
 

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