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COLCHICUM  AUTUMN CROCUS   Colchicaceae (Colchicum family)

Return to Plants Index     Bulbs Index     Autumn-flowering crocus   Spring-flowering crocus    Tecophilaea 

Colchicum bivonae 'Apollo' in our garden. Photograph © Paige Woodward 

Let's call them colchicums: "autumn crocus" is confusing. These beautiful lily cousins are not true crocuses, which are cousins of iris. And while many colchicums do bloom in autumn, others bloom in spring. Colchicums are native from Europe through Central Asia; their name comes from ancient Colchis, the land of the Golden Fleece at the eastern end of the Black Sea, now known as Georgia. Colchicums contain colchicine, a powerful  alkaloid used (among other things) in gout therapy and to induce polyploidy in bulb tissue culture. 

How to tell a Colchicum from a true Crocus? 

  • Colchicum has 6 stamens, 3 styles, and a superior ovary (that is, the flower cups the seed receptacle). 

  • Crocus has 3 stamens, one style divided into 3, and an inferior ovary (that is, the seed receptacle is below the flower). 

Spring-flowering colchicums bloom with their leaves, while autumn-flowering colchicums usually (but not always!) produce their leaves separately, in spring. 

The taxonomy of Colchicum and its allies is tangled and contradictory; we eagerly await the promised monograph by Karin Persson.  

Please order for shipping in late August-September.  

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Photographs © A.M.D. Hoog

Colchicum asteranthum Vassiliades & K. Persson. This rare, diminutive species, published only in 2002, sends up 1-3 starry white flowers in December-January, making it a natural for the glasshouse. The flowers are faintly honey-scented; the leaves are linear; the corms are soboliferous, spreading by fat underground shoots. Our stock descends from specimens collected in 2001 in the central Peloponnesus, at the type site, by Jimmy and Karin Persson of Sweden's Göteborg Botanic Garden. The native soil is red clay weathered from limestone. Our photographs show the plant past perfection, near the end of its bloom. Height of flowers rarely exceeds 10 cm (4"). Zone 7? 

Corm (Fall shipping only). $21.00

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Photograph © Paige Woodward 

Colchicum autumnale Linnaeus 'Alboplenum'. The species, native to much of western and central Europe, is common in its single, purple-rose forms, but here is a delightful variation. Flowers that are white and fully double last for weeks in October where autumns are cool and clear. Like all doubles, 'Aloboplenum' is too fragile to withstand heavy rain. We get heavy rain but we grow it anyway, enjoying it until the first big storm. The leaves, about 2.5 x 25 cm (1" x 10"), appear in spring and die down in midsummer; we have overplanted ours with Chinese violets to conceal their decline. This beauty arose spontaneously in a garden several centuries ago and has been treasured ever since. It is not to be confused with its mass-cloned, mauve offspring 'Waterlily,' a cross with C. speciosum 'Album'. Height 10-15 cm (4-6"). Zone 5.

Corm (Fall shipping only). $9.00

Colchicum autumnale 'Nancy Lindsay' IMGP3911x.jpg (60796 bytes)

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Photographs © Paige Woodward 

Colchicum autumnale Linnaeus 'Nancy Lindsay'. Intensely violet flowers with a heart and perianth tube of deeper violet bloom in September-October. In our upper, sunlit picture, the flowers have just emerged and the perianth tube is starting to turn violet. Each segment of the flower has a white line rising from the base, as shown in our lower picture. Vigorous, floriferous and lovely, this selection ~ named for Nancy Lindsay, who had a small nursery near Hidcote Manor in England after World War II ~ is among the easiest colchicums for the autumn garden. It is sometimes offered as C. pannonicum, a supposed species native to Hungary,  but experts say that it is a color form of the widespread C. autumnale. The flowers are smaller and more refined than those of many autumnale clones, however. Award of Garden Merit (Royal Horticultural Society) 1997. Height 15-20 cm (6-8"). Zone 5. 

Corm (Fall shipping only). $4.50

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Photograph © A.M.D. Hoog

Colchicum baytopiorum C.D. Brickell. One to three bright lilac-pink flowers with golden anthers bloom in October-November.  The flowers are funnel-shaped, with lobes up to 4 cm (1.5") long, and not chequered. A trio of narrow leaves rises with or slightly after the flowers, about 5 cm (2") long at first, stretching to 30 cm (12") as time goes on. The corm is ovoid and often has a large "heel". This charmer is named for the Turkish botanists Turhan Baytop, who died in 2002, and his wife, Asuman Baytop. It is native to dense scrub in Turkey's western Antalya province. Our corms descend from material collected by Erich Pasche at a low elevation in 1973. This species is ideal for pot culture. If unprotected, its  leaves are likely to be damaged by frost. Height 5-8 cm  (2-3"). Zone 7-8. 

Corm (Fall shipping only). $12.00.

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Photographs © Paige Woodward

Colchicum bivonae Guss. 'Apollo'. This stunner of garden origin, sometimes called C. bowlesianum, is part of a series of C. bivonae selections named for Greek gods associated with the Oracle of Delphi. It is one of our favorites, blooming in late August-September with huge, substantial, goblet-shaped, scented flowers that are chequered with intense violet-mauve around a white heart. Height 15-20 cm (6-8"). Choice. Zone 6.

Corm (Fall shipping only). $9.00

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Photograph © A.M.D. Hoog

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Photograph © Paige Woodward

Colchicum bivonae Guss. 'Glory of Heemstede'.  Selected by the Dutch plantsman J.J. Kerbert, this cultivar is sometimes mistakenly called 'Conquest'. It is similar to 'Apollo' in form and substance but the color is deeper, the chequering less pronounced and with us bloom is later, in September. Heemstede is a town around which, for a long time, many of the best growers in the Netherlands congregated. The situation is changing, but Heemstede remains a hub of horticultural energy. Height 15-20 cm (6-8"). Zone 6. 

Corm (Fall shipping only). $9.00

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Photograph © Paige Woodward

Colchicum cupanii Guss. Bright lilac flowers, funnel-shaped and 2-3 cm (1") across, bloom in November-January above a single pair of leaves.  Our plants descend from corms collected in 1996 by Antoine Hoog in Sicily on a dry, south-facing slope at 300-400 m.  This is a particularly vigorous clone. The species is native to the western Mediterranean. Height in flower 8 cm (3"). Best grown in a bulb frame or glasshouse. Zone 8 if not protected. 

Corm (Fall shipping only). $15.00

Colchicum 'Dick Trotter' IMGP4809x.jpg (74748 bytes)

Colchicum 'Dick Trotter' IMGP3727x.jpg (82998 bytes)

Photographs © Paige Woodward 

Colchicum  'Dick Trotter' Large, intensely violet-pink chalices with a white-star centre and golden anthers bloom in September. In colder temperatures, the color grows even more intense and the green-gold perianth-tube is suffused with violet. Choice. People see this in our garden and demand it. The mother corm was  found at Brin, the last garden of Richard Durant Trotter, a plantsman ally of E.A. Bowles. The flower form and the huge corms of 'Dick Trotter' (the ruler at left is in 1-cm increments; 5 cm = 2") suggest that one parent is C. speciosum 'Album.'  Height in bloom 15-20 cm (6-8"). Zone 6, perhaps colder.

Corm (Fall shipping only). $6.00

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Photograph © Leonid Bondarenko

Colchicum 'Jarka'. Rosy violet with a green stem, the outer perianth segments of this "upside-down" selection are tipped with white. This is our first season growing it, so we're short on details. We know that it flowers in autumn and we hear that it spread from a Czech grower to Lithuania and Latvia. If you know more, please get in touch.

Corm (Fall shipping only). $14.00

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Photograph © Paige Woodward

Colchicum kesselringii Regel. White flowers with golden anthers and a reddish-purple stripe down each segment bloom in February-March. There are several flowers per corm. This species is native to Tajikistan and Afghanistan. Our corms are from seeds. They descend from material collected by Arnis Seisums at Tovilj Dara in Tajikistan. The flowers are 8-10 cm (3-4") tall; there is considerable variation in the width of their stripes and the white background is sometimes tinged with pink. The leaves, 1-2 cm (0.5") wide, elongate to 15 cm (6") at maturity. Zone 6. 

Corm (Fall shipping only). $25.00

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Photograph © Leonid Bondarenko

Colchicum luteum Baker 'Vahsh'.  The species is native to subalpine N India, Afghanistan and SW China: mainly the Tien Shan and the Pamir Alai. It flowers with its leaves as the snow melts, in March-July and requires perfect drainage. This cultivar was bred by our friend Leonid Bondarenko. In our opinion the price is justified by both rarity and beauty. Height to 15 cm (6") at maturity. Zone 5, perhaps colder.

Corm (Fall shipping only). $35.00

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Photograph © A.M.D. Hoog

Colchicum minutum K. Persson. This little pink asterisk, perhaps the smallest Colchicum on the planet, blooms in February. It may be quite closely related to C. asteranthum, another rare, winter-flowering soboliferous species that grows in red clay weathered from limestone. C. minutum is native to S and E Turkey. Our stock descends from specimens collected in 2000 by Jimmy and Karin Persson in Antalya province, at about 1000 m (3200'). Zone 6? 

Corm (Fall shipping only). $22.00

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Photograph © Paige Woodward 

Colchicum montanum Linnaeus. Often called  Bulbocodium vernum, this fetching little plant is  currently back in Colchicum Abundant flowers, lilac to pink and often shading to white in the centre, bloom in March-April. Grow this under glass or, if you're brave, in a raised bed outdoors. The species is native from France to Greece. Our plants descend from Pyrenees stock received from Polly Stone of Askival in Scotland. Height 7-10 cm (3-4"). Zone 6.  

Corm (Fall shipping only). $10.00

Colchicum pannonicum

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Photographs © Paige Woodward 

Colchicum szovitsii Fisch. & Mey. Voluptuous, rounded white flowers with green hearts and golden stamens bloom in  February-March. Native to Turkey, Iran and the Caucasus region, this species is named for Anton Johann Szovits (d. 1830), who collected in Armenia and Azerbaijan. Our corms are of Armenian ancestry, descending as seed from the white clone 'Vardaovit'. These are beautiful and substantial garden plants. Height 5-7 cm (2-3"). Zone 5. 

Corm (Fall shipping only). $15.00

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Photograph © A.M.D. Hoog

Colchicum szovitsii Fisch. & Mey. large pink forms. These are pink seedlings selected from offspring of the famous white clones 'Vardaovit' and 'Tivi'. The flowers vary a little in shape. They are large, a good pink (rosier than in our photograph) and bloom in February-March. Height 5-7 cm (2-3"). Zone 5. 

Corm (Fall shipping only). $20.00

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Photograph © Paige Woodward 

Colchicum trigynum (Adams) Stearn. Grow this tiny dancer in a pot or trough. Up to 3 flowers per corm, pure white in this form, bloom in February-March, gradually opening out flat among 3 narrow, 17-cm (6") leaves. The flower segments are free, rather than joined at the bottom, and for this reason the plant is sometimes called Merendera trigyna  (Adams) Woronow. It is native to E Turkey, Iran and the Caucasus. Our plants are from seeds collected at the Bitschenag Pass in Nakhitschevan, Azerbaijan. Height 5-8 cm (2-3"). Zone 7-8 or glasshouse. 

Corm (Fall shipping only). $12.00

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Photograph ©

Colchicum trigynum (Adams) Stearn bright pink form. Offered in 2008 for the first time, this clone was found on the summit of a peak in the Zangezur Range in Armenia. It blooms late because of its high-altitude origin. Other details as in the previous item. 

Corm (Fall shipping only). $16.00

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Photograph © A.M.D. Hoog

Colchicum variegatum Linnaeus. This raving beauty has pinkish flowers strongly chequered with carmine red, and deep purple anthers. It is not to be confused with C. agrippinum, a cross with C.  autumnale that is paler and more common. C. variegatum blooms in October-December and when fully open the flowers are up to 10 cm (4") across! The glaucous leaves, rising in spring, are about 15 cm x 2-3 cm (6" x 1.5") and have  wavy edges. Height 10-12 cm (4-5"). Native to rocky slopes in the Greek Islands, Rhodes and S Turkey. Our plants descend from corms collected by Eduard J. Hanslik in 1993 in Turkey's Antalya province at 1250 m. Dry Zone 8 or glasshouse. 

Not available this season. 

Autumn-flowering crocus     Spring-flowering crocus     Tecophilaea 

This page was updated May 12, 2008.
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