Colchicum autumnale L.

autumn-crocus

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New England Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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North America Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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Facts About

Autumn-crocus, a garden plant and occasional escapee in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont, is protected in parts of its European range. The entire plant is very poisonous. It is the source for colchicine, a chemical used to induce polyploidy in plant breeding. Colchicine is also used medically, for treating gout, and may be valuable in the treatment of some cancers.

Habitat

Anthropogenic (man-made or disturbed habitats), meadows and fields

Characteristics

Habitat
terrestrial
New England state
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • Vermont
Leaf arrangement
basal: the leaves are growing only at the base of the plant
Leaf blade shape
the leaf blade is lanceolate (lance-shaped; widest below the middle and tapering at both ends)
Leaf blade length
150–350 mm
Flower petal color
  • blue to purple
  • pink to red
  • white
  • yellow
Flower petal length
40–60 mm
Petal fusion
  • the perianth parts are fused to form a tube, cup, or bell shape
  • the perianth parts are separate
Inflorescence type
  • the inflorescence has only one flower on it
  • the inflorescence is in the form of a compact cluster of flowers
Ovary position
the ovary is above the point of petal and/or sepal attachment
Fruit type (specific)
the fruit is a capsule (splits along two or more seams, apical teeth or pores when dry, to release two or more seeds)
Fruit length
20–60 mm
Show All Characteristics
  • Clonal plantlets
    Axillary bulblets
    there are no bulblets being produced in axils
  • Flowers
    Anther attachment
    the anther is attached at its midpoint to the filament
    Anther color
    the anthers show no hint of a pink, reddish or purplish tint
    Anther length
    5–8 mm
    Bulblets replace flowers
    there are no bulblets where the flowers are located
    Carpels fused
    the carpels are fused (the number of carpels equals the number of locules)
    Filament surface
    the filament surface has no hairs or scales on it
    Flower bracts
    there are bracts associated with the flower
    Flower number
    1–10
    Flower orientation
    the flowers point upward or spread or curve outward
    Flower petal color
    • blue to purple
    • pink to red
    • white
    • yellow
    Flower petal length
    40–60 mm
    Flower shape
    the flower has a funnel-shaped corolla tube
    Flower symmetry
    there are two or more ways to evenly divide the flower (the flower is radially symmetrical)
    Form of style
    the flower has two or more completely separate styles
    Fringed petal edges
    the petals are not fringed
    Hairs on flower stalk
    the flower stalk has no hairs on it
    Inflorescence hair glands
    the axis of the inflorescence has no hairs on it
    Inflorescence type
    • the inflorescence has only one flower on it
    • the inflorescence is in the form of a compact cluster of flowers
    Marks on petals
    there are no noticeable marks on the petals
    Nectar spur
    the flower has no nectar spurs
    Number of carpels
    3
    Number of pistils
    1
    Number of sepals and/or petals
    there are six petals, sepals or tepals in the flower
    Number of styles
    3
    Ovary position
    the ovary is above the point of petal and/or sepal attachment
    Petal and sepal arrangement
    the flower includes two cycles of petal- or sepal-like structures
    Petal appearance
    the petals are thin and delicate, and pigmented (colored other than green or brown)
    Petal base
    the petal narrows gradually or does not narrow at the base
    Petal fusion
    • the perianth parts are fused to form a tube, cup, or bell shape
    • the perianth parts are separate
    Petal hairs on inner/upper surface
    there are no hairs on the inner/upper petal surface
    Sepal appearance
    the sepals resemble petals in color and texture
    Sepal length
    40–60 mm
    Sepal orientation
    the sepals are slightly curved outwards from the plant
    Sepals fused only to sepals
    the sepals are fused to each other (often along with the petals in monocots), at least near their bases
    Spathe
    the plant does not have a spathe
    Spathe form
    NA
    Spathe length
    0 mm
    Stamen length
    15–24 mm
    Stamen number
    6
    Stamen position relative to petals
    NA
    Stamen types
    the stamens within a cycle are all similar
    Stamens fused
    the stamens are not fused to one another
    Stamens fused outwards
    the stamens are fused to the petals or tepals at or near their bases
    Style petal-like
    the style is not broad and flattened like a petal
    Tepals
    the petals and sepals are similar in size and color
  • Fruits or seeds
    Berry color
    NA
    Capsule ridges
    there are three ribs or wings on the capsule
    Fruit cross-section
    the fruit is round in cross-section
    Fruit length
    20–60 mm
    Fruit stalk orientation
    the fruits point upward or spread or curve outward
    Fruit type (general)
    the fruit is dry and splits open when ripe
    Fruit type (specific)
    the fruit is a capsule (splits along two or more seams, apical teeth or pores when dry, to release two or more seeds)
    Other markings on berry
    NA
  • Glands or sap
    Sap
    the sap is clear and watery
  • Growth form
    Lifespan
    the plant lives more than two years
    Root septa
    the roots do not have transverse septa
    Underground organs
    the plant has one or more swollen storage organs underground, such as bulbs, tubers or corms
  • Leaves
    Hairs on underside of leaf blade
    the underside of the leaf is not hairy, or has very few hairs
    Hairs on upper side of leaf blade
    the upper side of the leaf is not hairy, or has very few hairs
    Leaf arrangement
    basal: the leaves are growing only at the base of the plant
    Leaf blade basal lobes
    the leaf blades do not have basal lobes
    Leaf blade base
    • the leaf blade clasps the stem at the base, or the leaf blade goes all the way around the stem, so that the stem appears to pierce the leaf blade
    • the leaf has no stalk
    Leaf blade base shape
    the base of the leaf blade is cuneate (wedge-shaped, tapers to the base with relatively straight, converging edges), or narrow
    Leaf blade bloom
    the underside of the leaf blade has no noticeable waxy or powdery bloom
    Leaf blade cross-section
    the leaf blade is more or less flat in cross-section
    Leaf blade faces
    both surfaces of the leaf blade are exposed
    Leaf blade form
    Fully-formed (i.e., expanded), +/- green leaf blades are found somewhere on the plant
    Leaf blade length
    150–350 mm
    Leaf blade orientation
    the upper surface of the leaf blade faces the stem of the plant
    Leaf blade shape
    the leaf blade is lanceolate (lance-shaped; widest below the middle and tapering at both ends)
    Leaf blade surface colors
    the upper side of the leaf blade is relatively uniform in color
    Leaf blade tip
    • the tip of the leaf blade is acute (sharply pointed)
    • the tip of the leaf blade is obtuse (bluntly pointed)
    Leaf blade veins
    the lateral veins are parallel or slightly arched in the direction of the tip
    Leaf blade width
    20–70 mm
    Leaf stalk length
    0 mm
    Leaf type
    the leaves are simple (i.e., lobed or unlobed but not separated into leaflets
    Leaflet number
    0
    Stipule twining
    NA
    Stipules
    there are no stipules on this plant
  • Place
    Habitat
    terrestrial
    New England state
    • Massachusetts
    • New Hampshire
    • Vermont
    Specific habitat
    • man-made or disturbed habitats
    • meadows or fields
  • Scent
    Plant odor
    the leaves have no particular smell
  • Stem, shoot, branch
    Flowering stem growth form
    the flowering stem is held upright
    Flowering stem leaves
    there are no true leaves on the flowering stem
    Stem hairs
    the stem is nearly or completely hairless

Wetland Status

Not classified

New England Distribution and Conservation Status

Distribution

Connecticut
absent
Maine
absent
Massachusetts
present
New Hampshire
present
Rhode Island
absent
Vermont
present

Conservation Status

Exact status definitions can vary from state to state. For details, please check with your state.

Massachusetts
not applicable (S-rank: SNA)

Native to North America?

No

Sometimes Confused With

Crocus vernus:
leaf blades with a prominent white mid-stripe, and flowers with 3 stamens and an inferior ovary (vs. C. autumnale, with the leaf blades lacking a white mid-stripe and flowers with 6 stamens and a superior ovary).

Family

Colchicaceae

Genus

Colchicum

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Information from Dichotomous Key of Flora Novae Angliae

1.  Colchicum autumnale L. E

autumn-crocus. MA, NH, VT. Fields, edges of lawns, and roadsides.