Crocus (English plural: crocuses or croci) is a genus of flowering plants in the iris family comprising 90 species of perennials growing from corms. Many are cultivated for their flowers appearing in autumn, winter, or spring. The spice saffron is obtained from the stigmas of Crocus sativus, an autumn-blooming species.
Description & appearanceThe cup-shaped, solitary, salverform flower tapers off into a narrow tube. Their colors vary 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 leaf margin is entire.
A crocus has three stamens, while a similar-looking toxic plant, Colchicum, sometimes popularly referred to as "autumn crocus", has six stamens. In addition, crocus have one style, while Colchicum have three.
Distribution & habitatCrocuses are distributed across central and southern Europe, North Africa, Middle East, and Central Asia to western China. Crocuses are native to woodland, scrub, and meadows from sea level to alpine tundra in North Africa and the Middle East, central and southern Europe, in particular Krokos, Greece, on the islands of the Aegean, and across Central Asia to Xinjiang Province in western China.