THE SEA DAFFODIL - Pancratium maritimum

THE SEA DAFFODIL - Pancratium maritimum

Still wandering around northern Crete, I find that there is yet another gaping hole in my plant knowledge. After walking down to the beach earlier today I came across an absolute beauty of a plant which, after a quick bit of research, I found out to be the Sea Daffodil - Pancratium maritimum.

Sea daffodil flowers
I had spent a lot of time on the south-west coast of Spain after my father moved there in the early 1990's, and there was nothing even close to it there. So while the sea daffodil is a native to the Mediterranean region it turns out that it is mostly found around south-western Europe. I consider it a lucky find, because on the south Bulgarian and north Turkish coasts of the Black Sea, it is already threatened with extinction.

Although it is classed as a true bulb, it is not remotely related to the Narcissus daffodil species that all of us in Northern Europe would be familiar with. However the resemblance is genuinely striking!

The sea daffodil grows on coastal sands or just above the high tide mark, in fact the latter part of its botanical name 'maritimum' means' of the seashore. The stunning, and highly ornamental white flowers are produced from August to October and release a gorgeous, exotic scent similar to lilies. However, because it is pollinated by a hawk-moth the perfume isn't released until the evening and even then it only becomes apparent during warm, windless nights.

Pancratium maritimum
The hawk-moth will only pollinate the flowers when winds are less than 2 metres per second, and amazingly the sea daffodil seems able to detect the wind velocity. Research has shown us if the flowers are artificially pollinated during windy weather then they will not produce seed.

It turns out that the sea daffodil is not receptive to its own pollen and furthermore the plant is able to recognize it as such. So by not releasing pollen during windy weather is a practical method to prevent the plant from wasting pollen (an expensive and valuable plant resource) and is perhaps a throwback to when this plant could have been self-pollinated which could have resulted in weakening the species gene pool.

Unlike most other bulbous plant the sea daffodil is evergreen although the leaves will often die back during hot summers.

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