CROCUS, a botanical genus of the natural order Iridaceae, containing about 70 species, natives of Europe, North Africa, and temperate Asia, and especially developed in the dry country of south-eastern Europe and western and central Asia. The plants are admirably adapted for climates in which a season favourable to growth alternates with a hot or dry season; during the latter they remain dormant beneath the ground in the form of a short thickened stem protected by the scaly remains of the bases of last season's leaves (known botanically as a "corm"). At the beginning of the new season of growth, new flowerand leaf-bearing shoots are developed from the corm at the expense of the food-stuff stored within it. New corms are produced at the end of the season, and by these the plant is multiplied.
These crocuses of the flower garden are mostly horticultural varieties of C. vernus, C. versicolor and C.aureus (Dutch crocus), the two former yielding the white, purple and striped, and the latter the yellow varieties. The crocus succeeds in any fairly good garden soil, and is usually planted near the edges of beds or borders in the flower garden, of in broadish patches at intervals along the mixed borders. The corms should be planted 3 in. below the surface, and as they become crowded they should be taken up and replanted with a refreshment of the soil, at least every five or six years. Crocuses have also a pleasing effect when dotted about on the lawns and grassy banks of the pleasure ground.
Some of the best of the varieties are: Purple: David Rizzio, Sir J. Franklin, purpureus grandiflorus. Striped: Albion, La Majestueuse, Sir Walter Scott, Cloth of Silver, Mme Mina. White: Caroline Chisholm, Mont Blanc. Yellow: Large Dutch.
The species of crocus are not very readily obtainable, but those who make a specialty of hardy bulbs ought certainly to search them out and grow them. They require the same culture as the more familiar garden varieties; but, as some of them are apt to suffer from excess of moisture, it is advisable to plant them in prepared soil in a raised pit, where they are brought nearer to the eye, and where they can be sheltered when necessary by glazed sashes, which, however, should not be closed except when the plants are at rest, or during inclement weather in order to protect the blossoms, especially in the case of winter flowering species. The autumn blooming kinds include many plants of very great beauty. The following species are recommended:
Spring flowering: Yellow: C. aureus, aureus var. sulphureus, chrysanthus, Olivieri, Korolkowi, Balansae, ancyrensis, Susianus, stellaris. Lilac: C. Imperati, Sieberi, etruscus, vernus, Tomasinianus, banaticus. White: C. biflorus and vars., candidus, vernus vars. Striped: C. versicolor, reticulatus.
Autumn flowering: Yellow: C. Scharojani. Lilac: C. asturicus, cancellatus var., cilicicus, byzantinus (iridiflorus) , longiflorus, medius, nudiflorus, pulchellus, Salzmanni, sativus vars. speciosus, zonatus. White: caspius, cancellatus, hadriaticus, marathonisius.
Winter flowering: C. hyemaeis, laevigatus, vitellinus.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)