Have you ever wondered, ‘why are daffodils associated with Wales?’
If you have, then you are about to find out the answer.
Because not only are these cheery yellow flowers harbingers of Spring, but they are also the national symbol of Wales.
So without further ado, let’s find out why this is.
Why Are Daffodils Associated With Wales?
The daffodils association with Wales is probably due to three reasons: 1) They look and smell nicer than the other national symbol of Wales, the leek. 2) The words for leek and daffodil are almost identical in Welsh, which caused confusion at some point. 3) The UK’s only ever Welsh Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, was a strong advocate of using the daffodil as a symbol of Wales.
Reason #1: They Are Prettier Than Leeks
The daffodil isn’t the only symbol of Wales, the leek has even longer-standing connections with the country.
In fact, it is believed the humble leek became synonymous with Wales way back in the 6th century.
This was when St David (the patron saint of Wales), apparently ordered his soldiers to wear leeks on their helmets in a battle against Anglo-Saxon invaders.
This was so the soldiers could tell friend from foe more quickly.
The Welsh soldiers won the battle and put it down to the leeks they had worn.
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This association with the vegetable was still going strong in the 14th century when drawings from the time showed Welsh archers dressed in green and white, the color of the leek.
Around this time household guards were also ordered to wear leeks on St David’s Day by Tudor Kings.
But as nice as leeks are, daffodils are far prettier and much more pleasant smelling.
They are also much more suited to being worn on clothing.
It is thought these are possible reasons they became an alternative national symbol for Wales,
Reason #2: It Is All in the Name
But as pretty and fragrant as daffodils are, there are also hundreds of other equally beautiful flowers.
So how was it the daffodils became so ingratiated into Welsh culture and not another beautiful bloom?
There is a theory that it was a simple case of confusion.
Let’s look at the Welsh words for each of their national symbols:
- Leek: Cenhinen
- Daffodil: Cenhinen Pedr
As you can see they are very similar. In fact, Cenhinen Pedr actually translates as “Peter’s Leek”.
So it has been mooted that at some point the confusion over these two similar named items lead to the daffodil accidentally being adopted as a second national emblem.
The fact the two items have almost identical names, surely means it is not just a coincidence they are the two symbols of Wales.
Reason #3: It Is All Down to David Lloyd George
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David Lloyd George is the only Welshman to serve as the British Prime Minster.
He was in the position from 1916 to 1922, and was a very proud Welshman. In fact, Welsh was his main language and he spoke English as a second language.
Lloyd George was a strong advocate of using the daffodil as a symbol of Wales.
It was said he insisted the daffodil be used at the investiture of the Prince of Wales in 1911, although footage of the event indicates no daffodils were present (which probably shouldn’t be considered a surprise as it took place in July).
What we do know is that Lloyd George did argue the right to use the daffodil as a symbol of Welsh nationalism in several newspaper articles at the time.
It is also said the English Government at the time, encouraged Lloyd George in his attempts to cement the daffodil in Welsh culture as it had less nationalistic overtones than the leek, which was associated with the defeat of the Saxons mentioned in Reason #1 above.
When Did the Daffodil Become the National Flower of Wales?
In comparison to the leek, the adoption of the daffodil as a national symbol of Wales is relatively recent.
It is thought that the daffodil became the national flower of Wales at some point in the late 19th century.
We know that during his tenure as Prime Minister, David Lloyd George ordered the daffodil to be placed in the Welsh insurance stamps emblem.
And in 1917 the daffodil was integrated into the watermark design of Treasury notes for the country.
It is also handy that the national day of Wales, St David’s Day, is 1 March, around the same time the daffodil tends to spring into bloom.
Are Daffodils Native to Wales?
This question is actually somewhat of a contentious issue.
The generally held view seems to be that wild daffodils are native to Europe, in particular Western Europe.
They ended up in the UK after being brought there by the Romans who believed the sap of the daffodil had healing powers.
But there are some who believe that the Tenby Daffodil, Narcissus pseudonarcissus, is native to Wales.
This particular variety is prevalent in South Wales.
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The first person in the UK to capitalize on the potential of the daffodil was William Trevellick, a potato farmer from the Isles of Scilly off of the coast of Cornwall.
The Isles of Scilly have a notably warmer climate than mainland UK, and its winters are by far the warmest due to the moderating effects of the North Atlantic Drift of the Gulf Stream.
Around 1875 Trevellick recognised that his location meant daffodils would bloom in January, earlier than anywhere else in the UK, giving him a headstart over other flower sellers.
He began using the freight train to get them from Penzance to London in 48 hours, where they proved exceptionally popular in the city’s numerous markets.
This led to specialized daffodil farms being built on the Isles of Scilly, to cultivate daffodils ahead of the mainland.
Hopefully, if you have always wanted to know why are daffodils associated with Wales? Then this has given you an insight into the reasons.
The honest truth is, it is difficult to say with 100% certainty the reason but it is probably a combination of three things:
- The daffodil is much prettier and smells better than the other Welsh emblem, the leek.
- At some point in history there was confusion between the almost identical Welsh words for leek and daffodil which led to the daffodil somehow weaning its way into Welsh culture as an alternative icon of Wales.
- Probably as a result of points 1 and 2, Britain’s only ever Welsh Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, was a strong advocate of the daffodil being used as a symbol of Wales. His influence saw it become cemented as a national icon.
The daffodil might not have as longstanding a connection with Wales as its compatriot the leek, but now it is as equally associated with the country.