Botanical Name: Colchicum autumnale
Species: C. autumnale
*Colchicum commune Neck.
*Bulbocodium antumnale (L.) Lapeyr.
*Colchicum vernale Hoffm.
*Colchicum vernum (Reichard) Georgi
*Colchicum polyanthon Ker Gawl.
*Colchicum praecox Spenn.
*Colchicum crociflorum Sims
*Colchicum orientale Friv. ex Kunth
Common names: Autumn Crocus, Meadow Saffron, Naked ladies
Habitat:Colchicum autumnale is native to Great Britain and Ireland, with notable populations under the stewardship of the County Wildlife Trusts. It also occurs across mainland Europe from Portugal to Ukraine, and is reportedly naturalized in Denmark, Sweden, European Russia, the Baltic states and New Zealand. It grows on meadows and damp woodland clearings on calcareous and neutral soils. Extremely rare away from the Bristol Channel in Britain.
Colchicum autumnale is a herbaceous perennial plant. It has leaves up to 25 cm (10 in) long. The flowers are solitary, 4–7 cm (2–3 in) across, with six tepals and six stamens with orange anthers and three white styles.:324 At the time of fertilisation, the ovary is below ground.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.
Landscape Uses:Alpine garden, Border, Foundation, Massing, Rock garden, Specimen. Prefers a rich well-drained loam in a sunny position. Tolerates partial shade but dislikes dry soils. Tolerates a pH in the range 4.5 to 7.5. Plants are hardy to about -20°c. The dormant bulbs are fairly hardy and will withstand soil temperatures down to at least -5°c. The autumn crocus is easily grown in grass and can be naturalized there. It also grows well amongst shrubs and by woodland edges. Plant the corms about 7 – 10cm deep in July. Plants seem to be immune to the predations of rabbits, though slugs may attack the corms. The flowers are very attractive to bees and butterflies. Special Features:Not North American native, Naturalizing, Suitable for cut flowers.
Edible Uses: No edible use is found.
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. 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. Both the corm and the seeds are analgesic, antirheumatic, cathartic and emetic. They are used mainly in the treatment of gouty and rheumatic complaints, usually accompanied with an alkaline diuretic. 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. 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. 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. The fresh bulb is used to make a homeopathic remedy. It is used in the treatment of nausea, diarrhoea and rheumatism.
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. It works by doubling the chromosome numbe.
Known Hazards: All parts of the plant, but especially the bulb, are poisonous. They cause vomiting, violent purging, serious inflammation of the stomach and bowels, and death. Handling the corms can cause skin allergies in some people.
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.