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
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 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.