Daffodils and jonquils

I have always been unsure of the difference between daffodils and jonquils. A friend told me recently the white flowers were daffodils and the yellow flowering bulbs were jonquils – or was it the other way around? So I researched and have an answer, but one which feels like I am standing on shifting sands.

The gardeningknowhow site was a great help and explained ‘The major difference between daffodils vs. jonquils would be the leaves. Jonquils have slender leaves that round on the tips while daffodils sport slim sword-tipped foliage. Jonquil stems are hollow and usually shorter than daffodil varieties. They tend to have clusters of flowers on the stems and a delicate fragrance. In flower shape and hue, they are very similar to daffodil bulbs and most gardeners simply don’t differentiate.

Danny Lipford offered his explanation: ‘Common daffodils have single blossoms and flat, strappy leaves.’ He continued ‘Jonquil: This term actually refers to a specific type of daffodil known as Narcissus jonquilla, although the name is often used as a more general term for daffodils. They are most easily identified by their dark green, tube-shaped leaves as compared to other types of daffodils which have flat leaves. Jonquils also tend to have clusters of several flowers, instead of just one bloom, along with a strong scent.’  The value of this site is that he shows photographs of the different types of plants so I felt future identification should be easier.

From reading these sites my take was that daffodils only ever have one flower at the end of the stem while the jonquil often has a number of flowers at the end of a stem.

Out into my garden I walked to distinguish the daffodils from the jonquils. I found every one of the bulbs had flattish strappy leaves which means they should all be jonquils. Despite this, in a cramped pot are what I believe are daffodils simply because they have one flower on the stem.


What I believe are typically jonquils are shown below; they have many flowers on a stem. First a ‘bunch’ of single flowers at the end of the stem, second a cluster of double flowers, and third a cluster of single flowers but in yellow colours on the end of each stem.




Forcing their way through my fledgling avocado tree are jonquils with bunches of single flowers at the end of the stem.



I continued my research and found the disconcerting category of ‘Jonquil Daffodil’. Interestingly all the examples provided on this site have a number of flowers on the stem, which sits well with the category of jonquil defined further above.

Wikipedia tells me ‘Narcissus jonquilla bears long, narrow, rush-like leaves (hence the name “jonquil”, Spanish junquillo, from the Latin juncus = “rush”).

So, if I continue to think of the flat leaf versions as jonquils then the flower I identified as daffodil is a jonquil because its leaves are strappy and the jonquils I identified as such remain jonquils.

Nevertheless I would like to think the tubular yellow is a daffodil, the name I have given this flower all my life. Is there a knowledgeable wise blog reader who can remove my confusion and provide a clear cut means to pick the difference?

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