Spring Crocus

Crocus flowers in spring sunshine. © Karen Andrews

After a few false starts, it starts to feel that spring is on its way when Crocus flowers appear. Their thin leaves go undetected. The flowers seem to appear all at once with increased daylight hours and the first warm sunshine. It is hardly surprising that they have long been recognised as a cultural symbol for the awakening of nature, renewal of life, resurrection and heavenly bliss. A carpet of naturalised Crocus in a lawn is a blissful sight after the long, dark, cold days of winter.

Troublesome Plural

Many stumble over the plural of Crocus. The Latin pedant requires Croci. Widespread usage prefers Crocuses, even if I can still picture myself wincing under the penetrating and disappointed gaze of my old Latin teacher with every utterance.

Resilient Flower

Whether you choose to say Croci or Crocuses, these are undoubtedly resilient flowers. A waxy cuticle protects Crocus flowers and leaves from frost. They can therefore withstand the changeable and unpredictable temperatures of a British spring. This year has been freezing cold one minute and unseasonably warm the next. Crocuses are still going strong. They need the cold to spur growth. Their underground corms (swollen stems as opposed to bulbs) help them to survive adverse winter conditions and summer drought conditions. They have their own tunics for protection.

Colours

I am particularly fond of the deep purple-coloured varieties. Crocuses also come in yellow, orange, lilac and white as well as two-toned and striped cultivars (see photos below).

Naturalised

The Crocus is a member of the Iridaceae or Iris family. It is not native to Britain, yet it is a welcome naturalised, early spring flower. Crocus tommasinianus (Early Crocus) and Crocus vernus (Spring Crocus) appear in my Collins Wild Flower Guide as introduced species that escaped into the wild from cultivation throughout Britain. The flowers can be found in parks, woodland, churchyards, cemeteries and on roadsides.

Crocus vernus has been known in the wild in Britain since the 18th century. By contrast, Crocus tommasinianus is a more recent introduction. Its ability to seed abundantly has led to its firm establishment in just over 50 years. The alien status of Crocus species and hybrids means that botanical recording of their presence is somewhat inconsistent. Nonetheless, their early spring appearance heightens expectations of all the other spring flowers that are to come for both gardeners and wild flower lovers alike.

Side view of yellow Crocus flowers with their thin, grass-like leaves. © Karen Andrews
Carpet of Crocus flowers naturalised in lawn capture the spring sunshine. © Karen Andrews

Spring Crocus Collage

Cup-shaped Crocus flowers come in a variety of colours and tones © Karen Andrews

References and Further Reading

  • Kandeler, Riklef & Ullrich, Wolfram R. (2009): Symbolism of plants: examples of European-Mediterranean culture presented with biology and history of art: JANUARY: Crocus. Journal of Experimental Botany, Volume 60, Issue 1, January 2009, Pages 6–8, https://doi.org/10.1093/jxb/ern360
  • Khodorova, N. V., & Boitel-Conti, M. (2013): The Role of Temperature in the Growth and Flowering of Geophytes. Plants (Basel, Switzerland)2(4), 699–711. https://doi.org/10.3390/plants2040699
  • Stace, Clive A. & Crawley, Michael J. (2015): Alien Plants. William Collins. London. (p.167)
  • Stace, Clive A. & Preston, Chris D. & Pearman, David A. (2015): Hybrid Flora of the British Isles. Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland.
  • Streeter, David et al. (2016): Collins Wild Flower Guide. The Most Complete Guide to the Wild Flowers of Britain and Ireland. 2nd Edition. William Collins. London.

Copyright Note

Karen does not seek or receive any commercial interest or advantage from this blog. She is not promoting any business venture. She simply loves to share fascinating facts about plants. These pages illustrate her love of plants, botany, biodiversity, gardens and creative expression. There is always so much to learn about plant diversity. This blog is designed as a showcase for photography, commentary on plants and wildlife, gardens and other places visited, horticulture and related topics. Viewpoints are her own, not those of her employer.

© Karen Andrews 2018 onwards. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Karen Andrews and BotanyKaren.net with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

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