Autumn crocus extinction

Autumn Crocus

July 9, 2014 – 05:28 pm

This tiny white Autumn crocus

Common names:

Autumn crocus, Fall crocus, Meadow saffron, Mysteria, Wonder bulb

Scientific name: Colchicum autumnale

Explanation of scientific name:

Colchicum - from Colchis, ancient name of a country on the Black Sea

autumnale - autumnal, in reference to the flowering time of this species

Most people are familiar with the Spring Flowering Crocus, with its small flowers in a variety of colors representing some of the first blossoms to appear in the spring. The Autumn Crocus, however, is unknown to the majority of gardeners. When encountered, it is considered by many to be an over-sized Spring Flowering Crocus that is blooming in the wrong season. While related, the Spring and Autumn Crocuses are not nearly as close relatives as their common names suggest. The Autumn Crocus belongs to the Lily family (Liliaceae) along with the Lilies, Tulips, and Hyacinths. The Spring Flowering Crocus, in contrast, is a member of the Iris Family (Iridaceae) along with the Iris and Gladiolus.

Native to Europe, North Africa and Asia, the Autumn Crocus is just one species of about 70 in the genus Colchicum. The plant’s life cycle is unusual, and unless one is aware of how it grows it can present a surprise in fall gardens. The large colorful flowers averaging 4 inches across appear in clusters of 1-4 blossoms. They arise from the earth without any accompanying foliage. For 2-3 weeks they brighten an area, then die back to the ground. The next spring, 3-8 leaves appear, up to 1 foot in length. They produce food that is transported to and stored in the plant’s corm, a modified underground stem. The foliage withers by early summer, and the plant remains dormant within the soil usually until September in our area, when it flowers again. The corms are available at garden centers and especially through mail order catalogs from mid through late summer. Since they must be planted early, long before most people consider planting bulbs in the Fall, the Autumn Crocus has long been overlooked by modern gardeners. It deserves wider usage.

Besides its ornamental value, the Autumn Crocus has a long history of use in medicine, rooted in the myths and written records of ancient Egypt, India, and Greece. It is mentioned in the Ebers Papyrus, the oldest known medical text, prepared by the Egyptians around 1550 B.C. Thirty-five centuries later it is still found in modern pharmacopeias, one of only 18 plants documented as having a history of medicinal value for such a long period of time.


StarwestBotanicals Saffron Whole - Crocus sativus, 1 oz
Health and Beauty (StarwestBotanicals)
  • Origin: Spain
  • Common Names: Autumn crocus, Spanish saffron
  • Kosher Certified

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