Solve the Autumn Crocus Confusion

By on September 27, 2012

Crocus sativus - the saffron crocus

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
crocus sativus autumn crocus


















Now examine Flower Number 2
colchicum autumnale


















And our last suspect, Flower Number 3
dutch crocus













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.

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