Years ago, the first fall in a new house and garden, I was surprised when lots of lilac colored flowers appeared in September. They looked like crocus, but were blooming at the wrong time of the year. My gardening neighbor/friend/ fellow SLGC member informed me they were Colchicums, or Autumn Crocus. Colchicum autumnale, known as autumn crocus, naked ladies or meadow saffron, look like large spring crocus.
They are native to Great Britain and Ireland. Colchicum is not related to the spring crocus and is not a source of saffron. It is actually very toxic, with the leaves being the most toxic part. This causes them to be a particular danger to cats…so if you are a cat lover, this is probably not the plant for you. This is new information for me too. You might find them in quiet corners of gardens, borders, under shrubbery, anyplace they can grow undisturbed. While they have a gorgeous lilac flower that appears to grow straight out of the ground, their foliage, appearing in late spring, is not so attractive and hangs around a long time. I have been known to cut the leaves off if not ready to be pulled out. Because of their leaves, Colchicums are best planted where you will not mind the large leaves standing up. Suzy Hartford planted hers in a Lily of the Valley patch; with the Colchicum leaves emerging after the Lily bloom had passed. My favorite thing about them has been sharing them with friends and fellow gardeners. They are hardy and move easily; no need to wait til the leaves are dead to move them.
Keep your eye out for these beautiful flowers as we welcome autumn.