Narcissus sit in the Amaryllidaceae family, part of the Order Asparagales which includes many small herbaceous genera, from our well-known onions, garlics, and leeks all the way to more exotic genera such as Agave, Yucca, and Aloe. In broader botanical terms Narcissus are Monocots. This is a major taxonomic grouping of plants that are most easily identified by their long straight veined leaves (imagine the leaves of an onion), flowering parts that come in multiples of three (e.g. three petals), and shoots which have only one leaf when they first sprout (as opposed to two, ‘dicotyledons’).
When growing outdoors the flowers may often open in pairs, hence the name ‘Tete-a-tete’. The name Narcissus may be related to the Greek mythological figure who fell in love with his reflection in a pool of water. The nodding habit of the plants flower heads reflects Narcissus’ own head bobbing down to look at itself in reflection. These species are mostly cultivated in the UK, the Netherlands, and the Channel Islands.
The bulbs, leaves, stems, and seed pods all contain toxic alkaloids that will cause illness if ingested. Major uses of the plant are economic in the form of cultivars and hybrids, sold for ornamental purposes.
Narcissus have been used widely in folk and traditional medicine having been known to have a myriad of physiological effects; for example, it was recommended by Dioscorides to help with skin afflictions. The genus has more recently been used in chemotherapy treatment. Indeed, one of the active alkaloids is galanthamine which has also been found in Snowdrops (Leucojum aestivum) and is known to provide relief in Alzheimer sufferers. A pharmaceutical developer, Alzeim Ltd, is now based in the Brecons and is working to produce Alzheimer pharmaceuticals, but I have no knowledge of their activities.