Of naked ladies, autumn crocus and so-called autumn crocus

December 14, 2012 – 12:25 pm

The true autumn crocus is indeed a crocusJust for the record, and in light of finding myself in print with some incorrect information which I didn’t actually write, I offer the following clarification.

The true autumn flowering crocus is in fact a crocus. There are many different species in the genus of crocus, some flowering in spring and some in autumn. Generally, crocus flower around the same time their foliage appears. We don’t have a species name on this pretty autumn crocus in our garden. Trace the botany of crocus back and they are part of the subfamily of Crocoideae, the family of Iridaceae and the order of Asparagales.

Colchicum autumnale

Colchicum autumnale flower about the same time for us, but the flowers appear a long time before the foliage so they are sometimes called naked ladies. Equally, they are sometimes referred to as autumn crocus but they are not. Again it is a big genus with many different species but they come from the family of Colchicaceae and the order of Liliales.

Sternbergia are sometimes referred to as autumn crocus but they are no more autumn crocus than colchicums.Sternbergia are not autumn crocus either (Photo credit: Meneerke bloem) amaryllis. However, they flower with their foliage and their blooms, generally yellow, resemble a crocus in form. We have sternbergia in the garden here but they don’t flower overly well for us, possibly because they are essentially a Mediterranean plant which likes a hot, dry summer.

Also widely referred to as naked ladies are Amaryllis belladonna or the belladonna lilies that are mostly seen as roadside plants here. The genus is amaryllis, the species is belladonna (and there is only one other species in that genus) but the sub family (Amaryllidoideae) and then family (Amaryllidaceae) are the same as sternbergia. Trace them back another step on the Linnaeus chart and you find they are from the order of Asparagales which is where they meet the family tree of crocus – quite a long way back, botanically.

Amaryllis belladonna - the other naked ladies and closely related to sternbergia Colchicum autumnale Amaryllis belladonna - the other naked ladies and closely related to sternbergia Amaryllis belladonna (or naked ladies) are usually seen as a roadside flower

Source: jury.co.nz

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Late planting for bulbs

You "can" plant bulbs at any time until they dry up & die. However, you may not get flowers the first year, and of course they will do by far the best if they are planted at the proper time (for crocus, autumn). However, crocus naturalize superbly. You can always tuck them into some corner where they will not get mowed or dug up, even if it is not in your main flower bed, & give them a chance at life. They will be happier than if you chuck them in the trash, & will eventually reward you well.

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