Can birds spread daffodils?
It is certainly one of the more unusual questions I have heard asked in the past few months, but it is definitely worthy of an answer.
And it is an answer that might surprise you.
You might think you know exactly how daffodils spread, and you are probably right… to a point.
So let’s get started.
Can Birds Spread Daffodils?
Yes, birds can and do spread daffodils. As well as growing from bulbs, daffodils can also grow from seed, although it is much rarer. Daffodil seeds can be dispersed by birds and other wild animals, and also the wind. It can take up to seven years for a daffodil to bloom from seed, so it is a long process.
How Do Daffodils Spread?
You might be scratching your head after seeing the title of this blog.
You might have had visions of birds soaring through the skies carrying daffodil bulbs and randomly dropping them into fields below.
But obviously it isn’t like that!
Many people don’t know that daffodils reproduce in two ways:
The first and far and away most common way is asexual reproduction. This is the way we are all familiar with.
At the base of a daffodil is a bulb, with roots extending into the ground.
This bulb will divide and clone itself with smaller bulbs forming. This usually takes place after three to five years.
Sometimes tiny bulbs can also form on the stem of a daffodil. These are called bulbils and can be cut or peeled away and planted.
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But did you know daffodils can also grow from seed?
For this to happen the plant has to be properly pollinated.
Any insect or organism can act as a pollinator for a daffodil, as long as the pollen gets into the stigma then fertilization can start. Most commonly it will be bees that do this job.
Once it has been pollinated, a seed pod will grow just below the flower’s petals.
The seeds will develop, and when the daffodil blooms die the tiny black seeds held in the pod will be dry and ready for dispersal.
So How Do Birds Spread Daffodils?
When the seeds have developed, the seed pod of the daffodil will eventually split open.
The seeds will fall to the floor, where they will be dispersed by the wind or wild animals, such as, you guessed it… birds.
Birds will swoop down and see the seeds. Thinking it is a tasty feed they will pick at a few and fly off, only to discover they don’t like their bitter, acrid taste and promptly drop them.
Eventually, new daffodils will grow from wherever they land.
In all honesty, it is rare that daffodils will grow from seed, as pollination is much more unlikely in daffodils than other plants.
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This is because daffodil pollen is quite heavy and usually won’t be windblown, also there isn’t nectar to attract pollinating insects.
But with so many thousands (millions probably) of daffodils in the world, even if only a miniscule percentage of them develop seeds they can still be spread by birds.
How Do I Grow Daffodils From Seed?
I am going to put a disclaimer out there before we discuss this…
It can take up to seven years for a daffodil to bloom from seed.
So if you have the patience, here is how you do it.
The first thing is to check if your daffodil is seed-bearing.
This will be easy to spot because the ovary of the daffodil, found just below the flower head, will be unusually large.
You should see a seed pod. It will be ready to open when it ripens and turns brown, and when you can hear dried seeds rattling inside if you shake the stems.
You can just plant the seeds in the ground anytime from late summer into the autumn, and without any special treatment you should start to see signs of them sprouting the next spring.
However, to be more certain of success you can also follow these steps:
- Fill a large tray or pot with fresh, good-quality, potting soil.
- Sow the seeds around 2 inches (5cm) apart and cover with half an inch (1.25cm) of the soil.
- Place the tray or pot in a spot that gets 5 to 6 hours of direct sunlight each day and is fairly warm.
- Keep the soil moist by misting it with lukewarm water when required.
- By the following spring, you should see the first signs of your new daffodil plant. Just don’t expect too much, it will resemble a blade of grass!
- Each year, as the plants grow, carefully dig them up and move them to larger pots or containers
As previously mentioned it does take a while for daffodils to mature from seed.
The miniature varieties may bloom in 3 to 5 years, whilst standard varieties will take 5 to 7 years to bloom.
So patience definitely is a virtue!
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I am not certain how many people realise daffodils can also grow from seed, but I’ve certainly met a few people who were surprised when they found out the plant can reproduce this way.
It is the daffodil seed that birds can inadvertently disperse, leading to the vibrant yellow blooms being spotted in some unlikely spots.
It is rare that daffodils will grow from seed and it takes a long time, but it can happen.
Birds will pick up the daffodil seed with the intention of eating it, but drop it when they discover it isn’t to their taste.
It is unusual, but with so many daffodils and so many birds in the world it definitely happens each day!