Autumn Crocus (Crocus nudiflorus)
This plant was once known in the area as the “Halifax Crocus” when people used to travel to the area by steam train to view it in flower. Fields of this attractive purple flower could be viewed from mid September to mid October.
Sadly the plant has declined in recent years but it can still be viewed in flower in around forty different locations around Halifax.
The plant was first brought to the area from the Pyrenees probably by the Knights of St John and can also be found in other locations around England but nowhere in so many widely scattered sites as around Halifax.
The plant can be identified by its slim green leaves, almost grass like & with a white stripe running centrally along its whole length. The purple flowers appearing from mid September contain three stamens as is the case with all Crocus species. It should be noted that the Autumn Crocus (Colchicum autumnalis) sold in garden centre’s is not a Crocus at all but belongs to the Lily family.
The “Halifax Crocus” gets a mention in the book “Saffron” written by Dr Sally Francis. The reason for its inclusion being that it is thought that the plant is a relic of medieval cultivation as a substitute for saffron.
For further information on the “Halifax Crocus” please see the book “The Mystery of the Autumn Crocus” written by Steve Blacksmith (HSS Honorary Life Member)