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The flowers and leaves of the Autumn Crocus appear at different times. Flowers appear in the fall and may be present into the winter; leaves appear in the spring and may be present into mid-summer.
Autumn Crocus is perhaps best known as the source of the highly toxic alkaloid colchicine (colchicine has some limited medical applications, but must be used with great care). Although livestock generally avoid this plant, occasional poisoning occurs in cattle, horses, sheep, and pigs, sometimes leading to death. Colchicine has also long been used by plant breeders to generate mutations, a few of which may result in desirable traits, notably polyploidy. The late flowering time and attractive flowers make the Autumn Crocus a popular ornamental plant.
Jung et al. (2011) provide a thorough review of the biology of the Autumn Crocus, including its taxonomy, morphology, geographic and ecological distribution, reproductive biology, ecology, and physiology.
The Autumn Crocus is not threatened in the central portion of its distribution, although it is a species of concern in some countries at the periphery of its range.
(Finkelstein et al. 2010; Jung et al. 2011 and references therein; Smith and Waldren 2011)