The intensely fragrant Narcissus poeticus or poet’s narcissus has been highly prized in perfumery since the early 20th century. Until the late 1960s, one of the principal zones of harvest (cited by Guenther) of these wild blooms was the Haut Var region of Provence, where the author currently lives. This article brings together botany, history, personal accounts of hand-harvesting, folklore and medicinal uses of this remarkable plant. It also describes current transformation processes for the production of narcissus concrete and absolute, chemical composition as well as fragrance uses.
Narcissus poeticus is thought to originate from the Middle East or Eastern Mediterranean, but it is now naturalized all over Europe, particularly France, Spain, southern Italy and northwestern Greece (see “Botany of Narcissus”). Within France, its geographical distribution is predominantly central and eastern and includes the Massif central, the Alpes, the Pyrenees, the Gard (Vauvert), Cevennes, Auvergne (Haute-Loire and Lozère). Within Provence, N. poeticus has a mountain distribution throughout the Haut Var (canton de Comps-sur-Artuby, Aups), the Alpes de Haute Provence (La Palud sur Verdon, Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, Riez) and the Alpes Maritimes (the Caussols plateau, Seranon, Andon).
Narcissus poeticus is a protected species in both the Champagne-Ardennes region and Bourgogne. This is mainly to limit picking and overexploitation. Other Narcissus species are protected or classed as vulnerable within France. They include Narcissus triandrus L ssp. capax (Salisb.). Three species are on the European endangered listing: Narcissus pseudonarcissus L. ssp. nevadensis, N. scaberulus and N. tortifolius.