07 February 2010

Autumn crocuses for all seasons

I do mean to talk of weightier things – really I do! But somehow, my attention is always drawn back to my plants and garden, and the (to me) weighty enough things going on in my patch every day. Well, when it comes to 'weighty', how about a plant that contains a poison whose effects are as deadly as arsenic? That's what Wikipedia says, anyway, about the autumn crocus, Colchicum autumnale. The poison it contains is colchicine, an extract of which ('meadow saffron') was originally used to treat various rheumatic conditions!

My interest in the plant is purely aesthetic, though I believe colchicine is still used today in the treatment of gout, so as a long-time sufferer of rheumatoid arthritis, I should bear this in mind. These little patches of starry bright whiteness pop up in various spots in my garden each year, but not usually this early. After all, it's still midsummer here and autumn is a good month away. But about ten days ago – about the time of Mum's death, as it happens – after we were drenched with a welcome 90 mm of rain in 48 hours, the little clutches of soft green grasslike foliage suddenly erupted in the white star-shaped flowers. These half-close at night to resemble miniature tulips, but reopen again the next morning. I'm hoping they will last until D's arrival in a few days.

The crocuses have flowered nonstop since they first appeared and more rain over the past few days resulted in an even showier display this morning. However, just as I was about to go out and take a new photo, we were suddenly drenched by another downpour, and though the rain didn't last long, the force of it has really knocked around the delicate blooms of each bunch. So I wonder if they'll last much longer. Still, while they're here, they're a delight. There's something about white flowers – the way they respond to the changing patterns of light, they way they shine out like little beacons as the evening comes on. And today, wet and droopy, beaten down by the force of a driving rain, they keep trying to lift up their little faces to the light. Not a bad act to emulate. Thank you, whoever!


Anonymous said...

I love crocuses (is that the plural?) and it's good to know you can grow them that far north - there is hope for me yet.

Chartreuse said...

Gabrielle, these aren't the same as the lovely, smelly spring crocuses, of course. I used to grow masses of the spring bulbs in Tassie, but though I have grown a few here, in fact the spring-flowering bulbs do much better in a colder climate.

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I started this blog in 2009 when I became a full-time caregiver. My husband had been diagnosed a few years earlier with primary progressive aphasia. Over the next four years until his death in 2013, we went on a journey of discovery about this rare condition. My blog is about what I learned, how we both coped and how the journey deepened our love and appreciation of each other. Allen’s journey is over, but mine goes on.