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Today is Saint David’s Day (Welsh: Dydd Gŵyl Dewi)- the feast day of  the patron saint of Wales, which falls on March 1st each year. This date was chosen in remembrance of the death of Saint David as tradition holds that he died on that day in 589. The date was declared a national day of celebration within Wales in the 18th century.

Many Welsh people wear one or both of the national emblems of Wales on their lapel to celebrate St. David: the daffodil, a generic Welsh symbol which is in season during March or the leek, Saint David’s personal symbol on this day. The association between leeks and daffodils is strengthened by the fact that they have similar names in Welsh, Cenhinen (leek) and Cenhinen Pedr (daffodil, literally “Peter’s leek”).

There are several slightly varying versions of exactly how the leek came to be recognised as the emblem of Wales, but the general theme is that it was worn on the caps of  Welshmen in battle to distinguish them from their foes. Nowadays the leek, in various forms, is often sported by welsh rugby supporters and is featured on the reverse of the pound coin issued between 1985-1990.

 1985 One Pound Coin 1985
Leek and royal diadem representing Wales.Edge Inscription:

Designed by:
Leslie Durbin

(The edge inscription roughly translates as ‘I am true to my roots’).

Welsh and Tenby daffodils

The adoption of the daffodil as a national emblem is more recent and may be that  during the Victorian era, a common vegetable such as the leek wasn’t considered glamorous enough to be the Welsh national emblem and the daffodil, whose flowering coincides with the Welsh patron saint’s holiday, seemed like a fitting replacement.

There are two varieties of daffodil unique to Wales – the Tenby and the Welsh or Lent daffodil. Both species have suffered decline over the years as a result of property development on land where they once thrived.

Tenby daffodil-Narcissus pseudonarcissus obvallaris

Tenby daffodils suffered in Victorian times from being too popular as they were regularly dug up and became quite scarce but replanting has helped and nowadays you’ll see plenty in the spring time around Tenby,  South Pembrokeshire, and also in Carmarthenshire and parts of Ceredigion. One of the biggest displays of Welsh daffodils can be seen at Coed y Bwl Wood, at Castle Upon Alun, St.Brides Major in the Vale of Glamorgan, South Wales. The Welsh variety is more widespread, but still scarce.

This little daffodil only grows about 8″ or 30cm high and can be found growing wild around Tenby in Wales, hence the name. It seems no-one is quite sure if the Tenby daffodil was introduced to this country, or whether it could be a natural variation of our only truly native daffodil, Narcissus pseudonarcissus, also known as the Lent Lily as it usually flowers during the period of Lent, through February and March.

Lent lily – Narcissus pseudonarcissus

The Lent Lily is a similar tiny size and shape, but the outer petals are paler than the yellow trumpet, or corona, whereas the Tenby Daffodil has both a yellow trumpet and outer petals. Both have sword-like grey-green leaves and the plants are perennials. The species is native to Western Europe from Spain and Portugal east to Germany and north to England and Wales. It is commonly grown in gardens and populations have become established in many other parts of Europe. Wild plants grow in woods, grassland and on rocky ground. In Britain native populations have decreased substantially since the 19th century due to intensification of agriculture, clearance of woodland and uprooting of the bulbs for use in gardens.