by Area Forester Lisa Deaton
Daffodils, Narcissus spp., are always a welcome sight — they are nature’s colorful announcement that spring is near!
When we encounter daffodils in the middle of the woods, they are often a sign of an abandoned homestead. In the photos below, the flowers appear to surround an old shed or well (left), and these blooms near an old brick foundation (right) have thrived under 70 years of forest canopy cover.
While daffodil sightings like these are common throughout Virginia, in Gloucester and Mathews Counties we find entire fields, patches of forest and roadsides carpeted in daffodils. And for a period of several weeks, numerous varieties bloom throughout the area.
What began in the 1600s as an import by English settlers creating new homes and gardens, bloomed into an agricultural crop for the Middle Peninsula of Virginia by the early 1900s. Gloucester and Mathews Counties soon became known as the “Daffodil Capital of America.” At that time, more than 150 families were producing daffodils on 1,000 acres.
This heritage of daffodil farming has been celebrated by a Daffodil Show since 1938, and also with an annual Daffodil Festival since 1987. The industry began to decline when air freight transformed the cut flower market, but daffodils still abound throughout the Middle Peninsula. Many local residents remember time spent in the fields harvesting flowers and bulbs, and some owners of daffodil fields still set up roadside stands to sell cut blooms.