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Colchicum - L.

Common Name Autumn Crocus, Meadow Saffron,
Family Colchicaceae
USDA hardiness 6-9
Known Hazards All parts of the plant, but especially the bulb[200], are poisonous[4, 7, 10, 19, 65]. They cause vomiting, violent purging, serious inflammation of the stomach and bowels, and death[232]. Handling the corms can cause skin allergies in some people[238].
Habitats Meadows and damp woodland clearings[1, 10, 13] on calcareous and neutral soils[17]. Extremely rare away from the Bristol Channel in Britain[7].
Range Central and southeastern Europe, including Britain, from Denmark to Spain, east to Macedonia.
Edibility Rating    (0 of 5)
Other Uses    (0 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Colchicum Autumn Crocus, Meadow Saffron,


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Colchicum Autumn Crocus, Meadow Saffron,

 

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Summary

Bloom Color: Lavender, Pink, White. Main Bloom Time: Early fall, Late summer, Mid fall. Form: Upright or erect.


Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of bulb
Colchicum is a BULB growing to 0.2 m (0ft 8in) by 0.2 m (0ft 8in) at a medium rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 5 and is not frost tender. It is in leaf from February to July, in flower from August to October, and the seeds ripen from April to June. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Bees, flies. The plant is self-fertile.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map

Synonyms

Habitats

Edible Uses

None known

References

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.


Though known since at least the time of the ancient Greeks, autumn crocus was considered too poisonous to use medicinally and it was not until research in the Eighteenth century that the plant was discovered to be of value in the treatment of gout[268]. In modern herbalism it is still used to relieve the pain and inflammation of acute gout and rheumatism, although frequent use has been known to encourage more frequent attacks of the complaint[232, 268]. Both the corm and the seeds are analgesic, antirheumatic, cathartic and emetic[4, 7, 13, 21, 235]. They are used mainly in the treatment of gouty and rheumatic complaints, usually accompanied with an alkaline diuretic[4]. Leukaemia has been successfully treated with autumn crocus, and the plant has also been used with some success to treat Bechet's syndrome, a chronic disease marked by recurring ulcers and leukaemia[254]. A very toxic plant, it should not be prescribed for pregnant women or patients with kidney disease, and should only be used under the supervision of a qualified practitioner[238]. See also the notes above on toxicity. The seeds are harvested in early summer, the corms in mid to late summer when the plant has fully died down. They are dried for later use[238]. The fresh bulb is used to make a homeopathic remedy[232]. It is used in the treatment of nausea, diarrhoea and rheumatism[232].

References

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An important new book from PFAF. It focuses on the attributes of plants suitable for food forests, what each can contribute to a food forest ecosystem, including carbon sequestration, and the kinds of foods they yield. The book suggests that community and small-scale food forests can provide a real alternative to intensive industrialised agriculture, and help to combat the many inter-related environmental crises that threaten the very future of life on Earth.

Read More

FOOD FOREST PLANTS

Other Uses

The poisonous alkaloid 'colchicine' is extracted from this plant and used to alter the genetic make-up of plants in an attempt to find new, improved varieties[9, 13, 19, 46, 100, 171]. It works by doubling the chromosome number[89].

Special Uses

References

Cultivation details

Landscape Uses:Alpine garden, Border, Foundation, Massing, Rock garden, Specimen. Prefers a rich well-drained loam in a sunny position[1, 188]. Tolerates partial shade but dislikes dry soils[1]. Tolerates a pH in the range 4.5 to 7.5. Plants are hardy to about -20°c[200]. The dormant bulbs are fairly hardy and will withstand soil temperatures down to at least -5°c[214]. The autumn crocus is easily grown in grass[90] and can be naturalized there[200]. It also grows well amongst shrubs and by woodland edges[28]. Plant the corms about 7 - 10cm deep in July[1]. Plants seem to be immune to the predations of rabbits[233], though slugs may attack the corms[238]. The flowers are very attractive to bees and butterflies[201]. Special Features:Not North American native, Naturalizing, Suitable for cut flowers.

References

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Propagation

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in early summer in a seed bed or a cold frame[1, 164]. Germination can be very slow, taking up to 18 months at 15°c[164]. It is best to sow the seed thinly so that it is not necessary to transplant the seedlings for their first year of growth. Apply a liquid fertilizer during their first summer, however, to ensure they get sufficient nourishment. Prick out the seedlings once they are dormant, putting perhaps 2 plants per pot, and grow them on in a greenhouse or frame for at least a couple of years. Plant them out into their permanent positions when they are dormant[K]. The seedlings take 4 - 5 years to reach flowering size[1]. Division of the bulbs in June/July when the leaves have died down[1]. Larger bulbs can be planted out direct into their permanent positions, though it is best to pot up the smaller bulbs and grow them on in a cold frame for a year before planting them out. The plant can be divided every other year if a quick increase is required[1].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Colchicum autumnaleAutumn Crocus, Meadow Saffron,Bulb0.2 6-9 MLMHSNM03 
Colchicum bivonae Bulb0.2 5-9  MNM00 
Colchicum luteum Bulb0.1 6-9  MNM02 

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.

 

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Botanical References

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