Steven's meadow saffron

Steven's meadow saffron / Colchicum stevenii / سراج الغولة

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Status: Common

A geophyte of the Colchicaceae family Steven's meadow saffron is very common in the Eastern Mediterranean area. This funnel-shaped flower has six petals, two whorls of three, sprouting directing from its bulb, as there is no stem.  Although its flowers commonly have the six petals characteristic of this family, some individual plants have been found with up to eight petals.

The flower will bloom 2-5 cm above the ground. These small lilac flowers differ in shade and petal shape from each other, and change as time goes by. The six petals become elongated and lighter in color with time. The six anthers are yellow in color and have dark nectaries at their base. The stigma divides into three parts and the style leads to an ovary below the flower.

The linear leaves, with a width from 1-3 mm, usually grow during the flowering process, after the first few flowers have appeared. The appearance of flowers and leaves together distinguishes this species of saffron from others. The pink bulb, which lies approximately 5 cm underground, is replaced annually and multiplies with time. It can produce a cluster of flowers from 5-30 in number.

Flowering periods: It flowers from October to December, with the earliest rains. The flowers are pollinated by honey bees and the marmalade fly (Episyrphus balteatus).

The fruit, a capsule, develops underground, and rises at a later stage to enable dispersal of the seeds.

Ecology: This plant grows in clumps or singularly in the open fields, shrublands, woodlands and deserts of the Mediterranean area.

Common and medicinal uses: It is known to be both toxic and medicinal. The bulb contains colchicine, an alkaloid that is used to remedy rheumatic diseases as well as arterial problems. Its effect on cell division makes it useful in the fields of cytology and genetics. The toxic effects of colchicine protects it from being eaten by most herbivores.

Distribution in Palestine: It can be found in a wide variety of habitats, from the mountainous Mediterranean woodlands to the deserts.

Other names: Autumn Crocus,Medow Saffron.

IUCN red list status: not evaluated

Local status: least concern