Crocus (plural: crocuses, croci) is a genus of perennial flowering plants, native to a large area from coastal and subalpine areas of central and southern Europe (including the islands of the Aegean), North Africa and the Middle East, across Central Asia to western China.
The genus Crocus is placed botanically in the iris family (Iridaceae). The plants grow from corms and are mainly hardy perennials, and are found in a wide range of habitats, including woodland, scrub and meadows.
There are about eighty species of crocus (of which approximately 30 are cultivated). Their cup-shaped, solitary, salverform 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 leaf margin is entire. Crocuses typically have three stamens. The spice saffron is obtained from the stigmas of Crocus sativus, an autumn/fall-blooming species.
The name of the genus is derived from the Greek krokos (κρόκος). This in turn is probably a loan word from a Semitic language, related to Hebrew karkōm, Aramaic kurkama, Persian and Arabic kurkum, which mean saffron or saffron yellow.
Other uses of the name crocus
Though some true crocus bloom with the fall (autumn) rains, after summer's heat and drought, the name autumn crocus is often used as a common name for Colchicum, which is in the lily family (Liliaceae), and which has six stamens; it is also known as meadow saffron, though unlike true saffron the plant is toxic. The so-called prairie crocus (formerly Anemone patens, now Pulsatilla patens or P. ludoviciana) belongs to the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae).
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