How to tell apart Saffron and Colchicum

Colchicum sp.
Colchicum sp. picture taken near Brasimone Lake, Bolognese appennine Italy

In the Italian mountain meadows in September the Colchicum flowers are blooming. They are really astonishing flowers and dangerously similar to Crocus.

Within the Genus Crocus, the Species Crocus sativus is quite important for both gastronomic and economical aspects. Crocus sativus is well-known ad “Saffron” and it blooms between October and November. The blooming period of the two species may vary due to altitude, latitude, and weather conditions.

The differences between those two genera are many, but the most important is the presence of some very toxic alkaloids in the Genus Colchicum.

The species Colchicum autumnale is particulary rich in colchicine an extremely toxic alkaloid, that can lead to a painful death if eaten (I will spare you the details, but is a really unpleasant death).
The toxic dose for an adult human is about 10 mg.
The Colchicum autumnale blooming period is usually one or two months before Crocus sativus.

Colchicine has also therapeutic applications and is used in agronomic and medical scientific research even in experimental therapies against the virus SARS-CoV-2.
Should you want to know more read

The morphological difference easier to spot is the number of stamens
The flowers of Colchicum have 6 stamens each
The flowers of Crocus have 3 stamens each

Colchicum sp. flowers near Brasimone Lake in Italy. Please note the 6 stamens
Colchicum autumnale
Crocus sp. flowers, you can see the 3 stamens in each flower

For further information

Crocus sativus L.

Colchicum autumnale L.


If you are looking how to care for Saffron flower please check this link

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