Hybrids could leave Wordsworth's wild daffodils in the shade

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The Independent Online

Lake District daffodils immortalised in the romantic poetry of William Wordsworth are in danger of being overrun by a more common variety.

Conservationists claim the character of the daffodil beds on the shores of Ullswater could change unless the widely cultivated daffodils are removed from the area.

Although the wild species, Narcissus pseudonarcissis, is not threatened, it is already showing signs of turning into a hybrid after cross-pollination with the common, much taller, daffodil.

Wardens from the National Trust, which manages the lakeside landscape, have reported that some wild daffodils in Glencoyne Bay, also known as Wordsworth Point, have taken on the characteristics of the common daffodil.

Horticulturists from the Daffodil Society believe rival common bulbs must be dug up so the wild flowers, which have attracted literary tourists to the area, can continue to dominate. Adrian Whitely, a senior botanist at the Royal Horticultural Society, said: "There is a concern because the characteristics of the wild flowers may change around the fringes of the beds. They may start to change when the clumps get bigger – the answer is to remove the common ones."

He added that hybridisation through the seedlings was a danger although the current bed of wild flowers was not at risk. He said: "All the existing flowers will continue to grow. Their only threat is if they are taken away or attacked by infestation."

Wordsworth celebrated the daffodils "beside the lake, beneath the trees, fluttering and dancing in the breeze" in his 1804 poem. The moment is also captured in his sister Dorothy's journal for 15 April 1802, when the pair were walking at Gowbarrow Park by Ullswater. "I never saw daffodils so beautiful ... they tossed and reeled and danced in the wind," she wrote.

Ken Ratcliffe, the National Trust's senior warden, said: "The daffodils are an historic feature of Ullswater. They are a living link going back to the times when William Wordsworth and his sister roamed the valleys.

"There are around 200 of the common species and we do not know where they have come from. They are on our land and someone has planted them but we don't know who.

"If we do not move the common variety they will eventually take over. The wild ones will become larger and turn into the more common variety. The common ones grow much more vigorously."

The wild daffodil is found all over the British Isles and there is speculation it was introduced by the Romans.

The common variety, which has a multitude of hybrids, does not have a Latin name, because it has been germinated over the past 100 years by many different people in Britain.

There are 35,000 different varieties and telling them apart is virtually impossible. Even experts cannot name them. The most common varieties are Golden Harvest and King Alfred.