Crocus (plural: crocus, crocuses) is a genus of perennial flowering plants, native to a large area from coastal and subalpine areas of central and southern Europe (including the islands of the Aegean), North Africa and the Middle East, across Central Asia to western China.
The genus Crocus is placed botanically in the iris family (Iridaceae). The plants grow from corms and are mainly hardy perennials, and are found in a wide range of habitats, including woodland, scrub and meadows.
There are about eighty species of crocus (of which approximately 30 are cultivated). Their 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. The spice saffron is obtained from the stigmas of Crocus sativus, an autumn/fall-blooming species.
The name of the genus is derived from the Greek κρόκος, krokos (attested in Homer's Iliad, The Iliad/Book XIV). In Semitic languages is (Hebrew karkom, Aramaic kurkama, Persian and Arabic kurkum, all meaning saffron or saffron yellow). In Greek, the word is also used for the similarly colored egg yolk.
As one of the first flowers to bloom in spring, the large hybridized and selected "Dutch crocus" are popular with gardeners. Crocus flowers and leaves are protected from frost by a waxy cuticle; in areas where snow and frost occasionally occur in the early spring it is not uncommon to see early-flowering crocus blooming through a light late snowfall.
Most crocus species and hybrids should be planted in a sunny position, in gritty, well-drained soil, although a few prefer shadier sites in moist soil. Some are suitable for naturalising in grass. The corms should be planted about 3–4 cm deep; in heavy soils a quantity of sharp grit should be dug in to improve drainage.
Some crocuses, especially C. tommasinianus and its selected forms and hybrids (such as 'Whitewell Purple' and 'Ruby Giant') seed prolifically and are ideal for naturalising. They can, however, become weeds in rock gardens, where they will often appear in the middle of choice, mat-forming alpine plants and can be difficult to remove.
The first crocus seen in the Netherlands, where Crocus species are not native, were from corms brought back from Constantinople by the Holy Roman Emperor's ambassador to the Sublime Porte, Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq, 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.
1 Subgenus Crocus
2. Subgenus Crociris
Stimulatory effect of Crocus sativus (saffron) on [[beta].sub.2]-adrenoceptors of guinea pig tracheal chains.(Clinical report)
Dec 01, 2008; Abstract To study the mechanism(s) of the relaxant effects of Crocus sativus (Iridaceae), the stimulatory effect of...
The Effect of the Extract of Crocus Sativus and Its Constituent Safranal, on Lung Pathology and Lung Inflammation of Ovalbumin Sensitized Guinea-Pigs
Jul 15, 2012; ARTICLE INFO Keywords: Crocus sativus Safranal Asthma Sensitization Inflammation WBC Pathological changes Histamine ABSTRACT...
Effects of the active constituents of Crocus sativus L., crocins, in an animal model of anxiety.(SHORT COMMUNICATION)(Clinical report)
Dec 01, 2008; Abstract Crocus sativus L. is a plant cultivated in various parts of the world. Crocins are among the active components of Crocus...
Preventive effect of crocin of Crocus sativus on hemodynamic, biochemical, histopathological and ultrastuctural alterations in isoproterenol-induced cardiotoxicity in rats.(Clinical report)
Mar 01, 2010; ABSTRACT We investigated the effects of crocin, a pharmacologically active constituent of Crocus sativus L, in isoproterenol...