Although they are so familiar, the crocus plants are native to Southern Europe and Asia. There they can be seen commonly growing within woodland, scrub and meadows from sea level to alpine tundra.  It is their vibrant colour, hardiness, ease to grow and ability to spread that made them so sought after. It seems odd now thinking they were not always here.

With varieties flowering in autumn, spring and winter they are among the first flowers to emerge and always a welcomed sight. Colourful carpets of white, yellow or many shades of purple can be seen in large drifts in many parks and gardens. Among these few flowering plants you can imagine that Crocus pollen is particularly loved by emerging bumblebees. Bumblebees are quite often starving after their long hibernation and need all the nectar they can get. Finding a big patch of crocus flowers in a sunny corner would be just the thing!

Photo Credit: Karen Oliver

Crocus have long been a symbol of youthfulness, cheer and joy. The ancient Romans were so fond of the fragrance of the crocus that they created a device to emit a fine spray of its scent on guests as they entered banquets. The fragrance is also thought to inspire love and was even believed to bloom at midnight on Valentine’s Day.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Clark, Victoria Park

The name crocus is actually derived from the Latin word crocatus, which means saffron yellow. Saffron is a spice derived from the saffron crocus (Crocus sativus – one of the varieties planted here on the Connswater Community Greenway). It is one of 80 species of crocus and while not all species produce saffron, they are all similar in appearance and share the name. Interestingly, saffron is said to have been (in periods) worth more than its weight in gold and remains the most expensive spice by weight. But don’t be too keen to start harvesting as it takes thousands of flowers just to produce one ounce!

Where to find it?

Along the Greenway we have both spring and autumn flowering crocus. These can be seen throughout the scheme and currently as individuals at C.S. Lewis Square.  The saffron crocus (Crocus sativus) is an autumn flowering variety whereas the spring flowering variety currently on display are Crocus tommasinianus, commonly referred to as tommies.  

Photo Credit: Paul Hunter, Victoria Park

Be Part of it…

Crocus can add great colour to your garden whether large or small even in a window basket or a pot. Why not plant a few varieties and get colour in for spring, autumn and winter. This week will certainly test how tough they are and although the snow may be covering them now, why not try and get a glimpse of them as the snow melts. As always, we would love to see your Greenway pictures.