NARCISSUS TAZETTA, Bunch-flowered Narcissus

In early spring Narcissuses are among the prettiest of all blossomers. Above you see a common one, a bunch-flowered narcissus. Bunch-flowered narcissus isn't capitalized because that name applies to a large group of narcissuses, all considered as belonging to the same genus and species -- NARCISSUS TAZETTA

Narcissus tazetta is a species originally residing in a large swath of the Old World extending from the Canary Islands to Japan. The species is so robust and pretty that horticulturalists have derived many, many ornamental varieties from it. You may recognize some of the variety names: Paper White; Chinese Sacred Lily; Golden Dawn; Martha Washington; Odoratus; Soleil d'Or; Sugar Cup; White Pearl, and many others. I'm not sure which variety the one in the picture is.

Narcissuses -- members of the genus Narcissus -- belong to the Amaryllis Family, and their floral anatomy is fairly representative of the family. You can see a cross section of one of the above flowers below:

NARCISSUS TAZETTA, Bunch-flowered Narcissus, flower anatomy

In that picture the broad, white, petal-like appendages are "tepals," which are segments of the calyx/corolla complex (the "perianth") in which calyx lobes (sepals) are indistinguishable from corolla lobes (petals). This is typical for the family.

If the white things are tepals, then what is the yellow structure in the middle? That's the crown, or corona, typical of a cluster of genera in the family, including Hymenocallis spider-lilies, Amazon-lilies, Lycoris spider-lilies and Star-Grass (Hypoxis). Crowns are structures completely absent in most flowers, and often derive evolutionarily from modified stamens, or staminodes.

Inside the yellow crown you can see several yellow-orange, frankfurter-shaped, pollen-producing anthers, some held outside the floral tube below, and some closely packed right at the floral tube's throat. Below the anthers the greenish, slender tube is split open so that the straight, cream-colored style pokes stiffly upward. At the style's tip you see a tiny bulge, and that's the stigma, where pollen from other flowers is supposed to land, germinate, and send rootlike pollen tubes down through the style to the oval, green ovary below, just beyond my thumb-tip.

I've opened the ovary so you can see tiny, white, oval ovules stacked neatly inside it. Each ovule, once it's fertilized, will mature into a seed, and the green ovary itself will enlarge into a green fruit.

Because the floral parts -- the tube bearing tepals, anthers, etc. -- arise above the ovary and not below it, this is a classic "inferior ovary." If the floral parts arose below the ovary, with the ovary sitting inside the flower like a cherry in a bowl, the ovary would be "superior." Most wildflower ovaries are superior, so having an inferior ovary like this is a tiny bit special and worthy of recognition.

Bunch-flowered Narcissuses are distinguished among the 50-100 Narcissus species by having four or more flowers arising from each flower stem and the crown being much less than half as long as the tepals, plus the crown isn't wrinkled or "crisped."