Autumn Crocuses

The strange sight of crocuses in Autumn

The strange sight of Autumn Crocuses (c) Frances Scott

The leaves are turning golden brown and that wonderful smell of damp mustiness rises from the grass in earthy waves. Beauty is all around us and nowhere is this more true than in St James’s Park…

One of the autumnal flower beds so beautifully arranged in St James's Park

One of St James’s autumnal flower beds (c) Frances Scott

Even I was surprised to see, though slightly battered by early September winds and rain, a large scattering of what looked like crocuses. And yes, I looked this up – it can be ‘crocuses’ rather than ‘croci’, although ‘croci’ is also used. Surprisingly, the word ‘crocus’ doesn’t stem from Latin, but rather from the Greek ‘krokos’.

Autumn Crocuses

On closer inspection, they were indeed brave autumn crocuses breaking through the soil and bearing the brunt of the eager grey squirrels foraging for food.

Autumn Crocuses

Colchicum autumnale, or autumn crocuses, can also be known as ‘meadow saffron’ or ‘naked lady’. The latter’s intriguing name stems from its bloom, which emerges from the ground without any leaves for protection, since they have already died back.

The Naked Lady, which emerges from the soil without any leaves covering the flower

The Naked Lady, which emerges from the soil without any leaves covering the flower

One fact that struck me as rather interesting is that it is the only species of its genus (‘kind’) which is native to Great Britain and Ireland, which perhaps makes it all the more special that we have some growing right here in central London. More common crocuses, such as the crocus longiflorus, are native to southern Europe, North Africa and parts of the Middle East, although it is such an adaptable, hardy flower that they do seem to pop up everywhere.

Crocuses in the Tatra mountains in Poland

Crocuses in the Tatra mountains in Poland. Source here.

There are even some native as far afield as the Xinjiang Province in Western China, such as the ones below:

'Crocuses are known as some of the earliest flowering plants, with blossoms popping up at the end of winter.' Photo by Elisa Hough

‘Crocuses are known as some of the earliest flowering plants, with blossoms popping up at the end of winter.’ Photo by Elisa Hough, source here.

I am not sure which species my crocuses are since apparently there are many late summer and autumn flowering crocuses. There is even one crocus, Crocus Laevigatus, that can continue to flower right into chilly February, a true trooper pulling us towards Spring.

C. laevigatus, which sometimes contiinues flowering right on into February

C. laevigatus, which sometimes continues flowering right on into February. Source here.

There is so much information about crocuses online. I’d like to thank the gardeners of St James’s Park for helping them grow that we can appreciate their natural beauty. They are stunning in all seasons, but especially when you least expect to see them.

Crocuses in the Snow

Crocuses appearing through the snow. Source here.

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