Autumn crocus / Meadow saffron

Herbs profile

  • Latin Name: Colchicum autumnale
  • Colchis: Landscape in Greece where, according to mythology, the poisoner Medea was up to her nastiness.
  • Autumnalis: lat. autumnal
  • Family: Autumn Timothy Family/Colchicaceae
  • Feed type: Herbs

Autumn crocus / Meadow saffron (Colchicum autumnale)

The autumn crocus is a plant species that belongs to the family of the timeless family. It is a tuber geophyte with a tuber deep in the soil. The leaves grow up to 35 cm high, the flowers are among the largest in the native flora with up to 25 cm.

The rich green and somewhat thick leaves appear in spring. They are elongated-lanceolate and unstalked. A little later the slightly inflated capsule fruits follow in the centre of the leaf rosettes.

The flowers do not appear until midsummer. The star-shaped spreading petals have grown together in the lower part to form a long, narrow flower tube.

The autumn crocus is widespread. Its poison is used in medicine and plant breeding.

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Occurrence of the autumn crocus

The autumn crocus can be found in abundance on fresh, nutrient-rich and basic soils, both in fatty meadows and in alluvial forests.

Effect of the autumn crocus

The plant is one of the most poisonous plants of the native flora. It contains the cell division poison Colchicine.

Colchicine is neither sufficiently degraded by drying nor by silage! 1.5 to 2.5 kg of fresh leaves and fruit or dried plant material are considered a lethal dose for cattle.

For adults only 5 g of the particularly poisonous seeds are considered lethal, for children already 1 to 2 g.

In order to prevent the spread of the autumn timeless plants in the meadows, the individual plants should be cut out or pulled out at the beginning of May.

Special care should be taken when collecting wild garlic: the autumn crocus is similar to wild garlic (Allium ursinum). Bear’s garlic leaves, however, have a distinct stalk and are soft-leaved, apart from the distinctive smell of garlic.

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