Lenten lilies, as wild daffodils were once known, are at their best in March and April and often indicate ancient countryside.

The true native wild daffodil (Narcissus pseudonarcissus) is smaller and more delicate than most garden varieties, and has creamy outer petals surrounding a rich yellow trumpet.

Once it grew widely throughout the British Isles, but has vanished in many places as meadows have been ploughed, or the plants have been uprooted because they are poisonous to livestock.

However, the bulbs are an important source of a valuable compound called galanthamine, which is approved for the treatment of early onset Alzheimer’s disease.

There are still fine displays in places such as the Lake District, where William Wordsworth observed them ‘by the lake beneath the trees, fluttering and dancing in the breeze’.

Poets and daffodils seem to cluster together. One of England's strongest and most impressive English daffodil colonies meanders through woods and meadows along Poets Way in Dymock, Gloucestshire – so-called after a group of poets including Edward Thomas and Robert Frost spent time in south Gloucestershire during the First World War.

Although wild daffodils are cherished at many of their old woodland and meadow locations, they are at risk from hybridisation with planted varieties such as the gaudy King Alfred among many others.

You can follow BBC Earth on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Illustration by Rose Sanderson. Thank you to Springwatch Flickr group contributor Christine Bateman for the use of her image.