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Poisonous Plants: Autumn Crocus (Colchicum autumnale)

This autumn blooming perennial is a member of the Colchicaceae family and not related to spring blooming crocus that is in the iris family, Iridaceae. It is also called naked lady because the flowers bloom without leaves but this common name is also used for other plants. Colchicum autumnale is native to Great Britain and Ireland but has naturalized in Sweden, Denmark, European Russian, the Baltic States, and New Zealand.

Description: C. autumnale has lanceloate, glossy, bright green, leaves up to twelve inches long by one inch wide. They emerge in the spring but die down before the flowers emerge in the late summer to early fall. The white to purple flowers are two to three inches long and tubular at the base. They are carried on leafless stems six to ten inches long and quickly give way to many seeded capsules carried on stalks that elongate above the foliage as it emerges in spring.

Poisonous Properties: All parts of the plant contain the alkaloid colchicine and are toxic but the corm and seeds are especially potent. Colchicine is toxic when ingested, inhaled, or absorbed in the eyes with symptoms occurring two to twenty four hours after exposure. It inhibits cell division leading to bone marrow damage, anemia, hair loss, peripheral nerve damage, and gastrointestinal upset. Symptoms include burning in the throat and mouth, intense thirst, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, low blood pressure, shock, kidney damage, muscular weakness, convulsions, seizures, delirium, coma, and fatal respiratory failure.