genus Colchicum


[kol-chi-kuhm, kol-ki-]

Colchicum is a genus of flowering plants containing around sixty species of perennial plants which grow from corms. It is a member of family Colchicaceae, and is native to West Asia and part of the Mediterranean coast.

Colchicum autumnale, commonly called "autumn crocus" or "naked ladies", is the best known species. It produces purple, pink or white flowers resembling those of the crocus which appear from September to October in its native latitudes. It forms a rosette of dark green leaves, but only after flowering.

Several other species, such as C. speciosum, C. album, C. corsicum and C. agrippinum, are grown for their flowers.

Its leaves, corm and seeds are poisonous, containing the alkaloid colchicine. Its roots and seeds have long been considered to have valuable medicinal properties deriving from the use of small doses of this drug, such as to treat gout.

In this genus the ovary of the flower is underground. As a consequence, the styles are extremely long in proportion, often more than 10cm.

In the UK, the National Collection of Colchicums is maintained at Felbrigg Hall, Norfolk.


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