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Crocus

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Crocus
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CrocusLongiflorus.jpg
Crocus longiflorus


Crocus longiflorus
Scientific classification
Kingdom:Plantae
Division:Magnoliophyta
Class:Liliopsida
Order:Asparagales
Family:Iridaceae
Genus:Crocus Template:Taxobox authority new
Species

See text.

Crocus (plural: crocuses or croci) is a genus of perennial flowering plants that grows from a corm, growing naturally from the Aegean (where crocuses appear in Minoan frescos at Santorini), across Central Asia.

As one of the first flowers to bloom in the spring, the large hybridized and selected "Dutch crocus" (illustration, right) are popular with gardeners. However, in areas in which snow and frost occasionally occur in the early spring one has to plant them carefully as it is not uncommon in these regions for the crocuses to bloom early, only to suddenly wither and die from a unseasonable "post-winter" frost or snowfall.

The spice saffron is obtained from the stamens of Crocus sativus, a fall-blooming species. The name of the genus is derived from the Latin adjective crocatus, meaning saffron yellow.

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AmbrosiusBosschaertbouquet.jpg
Composed Bouquet of Spring Flowers, by Ambrosius Bosschaert, c. 1620 (Louvre Museum)

The first crocus seen in the Netherlands, where Crocus species is not native, were corms brought back from the Holy Roman Emperor's ambassador to the Sublime Porte, A. Ghislain de Busbeq, 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.

The genus Crocus is placed botanically in the iris family (Iridaceae). These are hardy perennial plants, which have little resemblance to the other members of the iris family. There are about eighty species of crocus, of which approximately 30 are cultivated. These cup-shaped, solitary, salverfrom 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 margin is entire. All crocuses typically have three stamens.


Though some true crocus bloom with the fall rains, after summer's heat and drought, Autumn Crocus is a common name used for Colchicum, which is in the lily family (Liliaceae), and which has six stamens. The Prairie Crocus (Anemone patens, or genus Pulsatilla) belongs to the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae).

The taxonomic characteristics are based mainly on the presence or absence of a prophyll (a basal spathe) and the aspect of the style and the corm tunic.

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