Solve the Autumn Crocus Confusion

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 early blooming saffron of crocus stamens. What's a gardener to do? Safety first: Only harvest stamens from spring flowering or fall bulbs you planted yourself. Let's put these similar-looking crocus flowers 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 crocus in full sun 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.


  • Teri, you should not have to give them a cold treatment before planting.

  • I just purchased some of these bulbs and received them. Do you have to give them a ‘winter’ in the refrigerator before planting them?

    teri savage
  • Jean, you can always put some bird netting over the plants to keep the cats out of them.

  • Hi there,

    I’ve just invested in 100 Crocus Sativus bulbs and 100 white crocus Jeanne D’Arc and only now reading online that these may be poisonous to my cats? Any suggestions as to where I can plant them?
    With thanks, Jean

    Jean Douglas-Laird
  • Pretty easy solution [ Only harvest the THREE LONG RED STYLES ] All other crocuses have white-yellow styles and/or less than three.

    Saffron is gathered during Autumn from the long red stigma/styles of Crocus sativus, these are part of its female reproductive organs. Not from the stamens as is often said.

  • I don’t know much about bees, but do know that most animals, including chickens, which I do own, are pretty good about instinctively knowing what is okay to eat, and what is not. I’m betting bees are the same.

  • Roxanne, I looked online and found this link to a helpful site, I do not see the crocus listed on this site. So I would say no, it is not toxic to bees.

    Suzanne at
  • Is colchicum toxic to pollinators? It’s planted next to wild oregano in my yard. Both flower in the fall and are frequented by local bees. My neighbors hives all died last year. We are a pesticide free neighborhood. Thank you!


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