crocus photoCrocus (plural: crocuses or croci) is a genus of perennial flowering plants that grows from a corm, growing naturally from the Aegean (where crocuses appear in Minoan frescos at Santorini), across Central Asia.

As one of the first flowers to bloom in the spring, the large hybridized and selected "Dutch crocus" are popular with gardeners. However, in areas in which snow and frost occasionally occur in the early spring one has to plant them carefully as it is not uncommon in these regions for the crocuses to bloom early, only to suddenly wither and die from a unseasonable "post-winter" frost or snowfall.

The spice saffron is obtained from the stamens of Crocus sativus, a fall-blooming species.

The name of the genus is derived from the Latin adjective crocatus, meaning saffron yellow.

The first crocus seen in the Netherlands, where Crocus species is not native, were corms brought back from the Holy Roman Emperor's ambassador to the Sublime Porte, A. Ghislain de Busbeq, in the 1560s. A few corms were forwarded to Carolus Clusius at the botanical garden in Leiden. By 1620, the approximate date of Ambrosius Bosschaert's painting (illustration, left), new garden varieties had been developed, such as the cream-colored crocus feathered with bronze at the base of the bouquet, similar to varieties still in the market. Bosschaert, working from a preparatory drawing to paint his composed piece, which spans the whole of Spring, exaggerated the crocus so that it passes for a tulip, but its narrow, grasslike leaves give it away.

The genus Crocus is placed botanically in the iris family (Iridaceae). They are hardy perennial plants, which have little resemblance to the other members of the iris family.

There are about eighty species of crocus, of which approximately 30 are cultivated. These cup-shaped, solitary, salverform flowers taper off into a narrow tube. Their color varies enormously, although lilac, mauve, yellow and white are predominant. The grass-like, ensiform leaf shows generally a white central stripe along the leaf axis. The leaf margin is entire. All crocuses typically have three stamens.

Though some true crocus bloom with the fall rains, after summer's heat and drought, Autumn crocus is a common name used for Colchicum, which is in the lily family (Liliaceae), and which has six stamens; it is also (confusingly and incorrectly) known as Meadow saffron. The so-called Prairie crocus (formerly Anemone patens, now Pulsatilla patens or P. ludoviciana) belongs to the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae).


Species of crocus

The taxonomic characteristics are based mainly on the presence or absence of a prophyll (a basal spathe) and the aspect of the style and the corm tunic.

1 Subgenus Crocus

A. Section Crocus

Series Kotschyani

* Crocus autranii
* Crocus gilanicus
* Crocus karduchorum
* Crocus kotschyanus
* Crocus ochroleucus
* Crocus scharojanii
* Crocus vallicola

Series Longiflori

* Crocus goulimyi
* Crocus longiflorus
* Crocus medius
* Crocus niveus
* Crocus serotinus

Series Scardici

* Crocus pelistericus
* Crocus scardicus

Series Verni

* Crocus baytopiorum
* Crocus etruscus
* Crocus kosaninii
* Crocus tommasinianus
* Crocus vernus : Spring Crocus, Dutch Crocus

Series Versicolores

* Crocus cambessedesii
* Crocus corsicus
* Crocus imperati
* Crocus malyi
* Crocus minimus
* Crocus versicolor

Series Crocus

* Crocus asumaniae
* Crocus cartwrightianus
* Crocus hadriaticus
* Crocus mathewii
* Crocus moabiticus
* Crocus oreocreticus
* Crocus pallasii
* Crocus thomasii

B. Section Nudiscapus

Series Aleppici

* Crocus aleppicus
* Crocus boulosii
* Crocus veneris

Series Biflori

* Crocus adanensis
* Crocus aerius
* Crocus almehensis
* Crocus biflorus
* Crocus caspius
* Crocus chrysanthus
* Crocus cyprius
* Crocus danfordiae
* Crocus hartmannianus
* Crocus kerndorffiorum
* Crocus leichtlinii
* Crocus paschei
* Crocus pestalozzae
* Crocus wattiorum

Series Carpetani

* Crocus carpetanus
* Crocus nevadensis

Series Flavi

* Crocus antalyensis
* Crocus candidus
* Crocus flavus : Yellow Crocus
* Crocus graveolens
* Crocus hyemalis
* Crocus olivieri
* Crocus vitellinus

Series Intertexti

* Crocus fleischeri

Series Laevigatae

* Crocus boryi
* Crocus laevigatus
* Crocus tournefortii

Series Orientales

* Crocus alatavicus
* Crocus korolkowii
* Crocus michelsonii

Series Reticulati

* Crocus abantensis
* Crocus ancyrensis
* Crocus angustifolius : Cloth of Gold
* Crocus cancellatus
* Crocus cvijicii
* Crocus dalmaticus
* Crocus gargaricus
* Crocus hermoneus
* Crocus reticulatus
* Crocus robertianus
* Crocus rujanensis
* Crocus sieberi
* Crocus sieheanus

Series Speciosi

* Crocus speciosus : Autumn Crocus
* Crocus pulchellus

2. Subgenus Crociris

* Crocus banaticus

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