Meadow Saffron

Colchicum autumnale

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  3. Meadow Saffron

About

Meadow Saffron is a native plant of damp meadows and woodland rides/clearings. It is also known as Autumn Crocus (also the common name of the similar, introduced Crocus nudiflorus)  or Naked Ladies; the latter name stemming from the habit of the flowers appearing without any leaves. The flowers, which appear in the autumn, resemble pink crocuses, but are in fact colchicums and not related to true crocuses. The leaves appear in the spring and can be confused with Wild Garlic (Ramsons), a potentially lethal mistake, since all parts of the plant carry a deadly poison called colchicine.

For this reason, the unimproved grasslands where this beautiful plant grew were typically managed for hay since the leaves die down prior to harvest. Changes to agricultural practice has meant that Autumn Crocus is now rare; remnant populations are generally found in field margins or road verges. It is also popular in gardens and does well when planted in a suitable location.

How to identify

Large, pink crocus-like flowers in September.

Where to find it

A lowland plant, the remnant populations are largely restricted to the West Midlands, central southern England and the Welsh borders. However, there are scattered and isolated populations persisting as far north as northeast Scotland and in East Anglia.

Habitats

When to find it

  • September

How can people help

There is an annual 'Crocus Count' at Llanmerewig Glebe Nature Reserve, where volunteers can help count the c1,500 blooms!

Species information

Common name
Meadow Saffron
Latin name
Colchicum autumnale
Category
Wildflowers
Statistics
Height: 10-40cm Flower: 4-6cm wide