Even the universities get mixed up about Autumn Crocus.
Is the Autumn Crocus the saffron-producing Saffron Crocus (Crocus sativus) or the poisonous Colchicum autumnale?
It really matters, because autumn is the season to harvest the saffron of crocus stamens.
What’s a gardener to do?
Safety first: Only harvest stamens from bulbs you planted yourself.
Let’s put these similar-looking flowering bulbs in a Garden Police Line Up to see if we can ID the poisonous Colchicum:
First suspect is Flower Number 1
Now examine Flower Number 2
And our last suspect, Flower Number 3
Did you guess right?
The poisoner is Flower Number 2—the dangerous Colchicum. Plant it FAR AWAY from any edibles in your garden. It is not even a crocus, but a member of the Lily family.
The crocus that will give you saffron for your kitchen? Flower Number 1. This is the Saffron Crocus (Crocus sativus), one of many autumn-flowering crocuses.
So, what is Flower Number 3? Bet you knew that one—our familiar friend, the spring-blooming Crocus vernus.
Enjoy all these flowers in the garden—but only eat from ONE of them.