Colchicum

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Colchicum
Colchicum speciosum
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Monocots
Order: Liliales
Family: Colchicaceae
Genus: Colchicum
L.
Synonyms[1]

Colchicum (/ˈkɒlɨkəm/) is a genus of perennial flowering plants containing around 160 species which grow from bulb-like corms. It is a member of the botanical family Colchicaceae, and is native to West Asia, Europe, parts of the Mediterranean coast, down the East African coast to South Africa and the Western Cape. In this genus the ovary of the flower is underground. As a consequence, the styles are extremely long in proportion, often more than 10 cm (4 in).

Common names[edit]

The common names "autumn crocus", "meadow saffron" and "naked lady" may be applied to the whole genus or to many of its species; they refer to the "naked" crocus-like flowers which appear in late summer or autumn, long before the strap-like foliage which appears in spring.

Colchicum melanthioides is probably the best known species from the tropical regions. In contrast to most temperate colchicums the flower and leaves are produced at the same time, the white flowers are usually a small corymb which is enclosed by white bracts. Close relatives (such as Colchicum scabromarginatum and Colchicum coloratum) have flowers with very short stalks and might be pollinated by rodents.[2]

Cultivation[edit]

Temperate colchicums are commonly grown in gardens as ornamental flowers. They include cultivars and hybrids such as:-

  • C. autumnale 'Alboplenum' (white)
  • C. autumnale 'Nancy Lindsay'agm[3] (mauve pink)
  • C. autumnale 'Pleniflorum' (red)
  • C. 'Dick Trotter' (violet with white centre)
  • C. 'Disraeli' (purple white),
  • C. 'Giant' (red with white centre)
  • C. 'Harlekijn' (white with purple band)
  • C. 'Lilac Wonder' (lilac)
  • C. 'Pink Goblet'agm[4] (violet-purple)
  • C. 'Poseidon' (purple)
  • C. 'Rosy Dawn'agm[5] (rose pink)
  • C. 'Violet Queen' (purple)
  • C. 'Waterlily'agm[6] (double, lilac-pink)

(Those marked agm have gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit).

In the United Kingdom, the National Collection of colchicums is maintained at Felbrigg Hall, Norfolk.

Medicinal uses and poisonous properties[edit]

The plant contains the alkaloid colchicine which is used pharmaceutically to treat gout and Familial Mediterranean fever. The use of the roots and seeds in traditional medicine is thought to have arisen due to the presence of this drug.

Its leaves, corm and seeds are poisonous. Murderess Catherine Wilson is thought to have used it to poison a number of victims in the 19th century.

Species[edit]

The following are the species included under Colchicum.[7] Many species previously classified under Androcymbium, Bulbocodium and Merendera were synonymized under Colchicum based on molecular genetic evidence,[8][9][10][11] Androcymbium is currently considered a separate genus.[12]

Gallery[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "WCSP". World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. Retrieved February 10, 2014. 
  2. ^ Kleizen, Midgley & Johnson (2008) Pollination systems of Colchicum (Colchicaceae) in Southern Africa: evidence for rodent pollination. Ann. Bot. 102: 747-755.
  3. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Colchicum autumnale 'Nancy Lindsay'". Retrieved 16 June 2013. 
  4. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Colchicum 'Pink Goblet'". Retrieved 16 June 2013. 
  5. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Colchicum 'Rosy Dawn'". Retrieved 16 June 2013. 
  6. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Colchicum 'Waterlily'". Retrieved 16 June 2013. 
  7. ^ Colchicum in the World Checklist
  8. ^ Manning, Forest & Vinnersten (2007) The genus Colchicum L. redefined to include Androcymbium Willd. based on molecular evidence. Taxon 56: 872-882.
  9. ^ Persson (2007) Nomenclatural synopsis of the genus Colchicum (Colchicaceae), with some new species and combinations. Bot. Jahrb. Syst. 127: 165-242.
  10. ^ del Hoyo, García-Marín & Pedrola-Monfort (2009) Temporal and spatial diversification of the African disjunct genus Androcymbium (Colchicaceae). Mol. Phyl. Evol. 53: 848-861.
  11. ^ Sunset Western Garden Book, 1995:606–607
  12. ^ "WCSP". World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. Retrieved February 10, 2014. 

Sources[edit]