This section is from the book "Wayside And Woodland Blossoms", by Edward Step. Also available from Amazon: Wayside And Woodland Blossoms: A Guide To British Wild-Flowers.
Colchicum autumnale. - Liliaceae. This leathery parasite is not very particular as to its host. Quite a large number of trees of different species harbour it, notably the apple; next in favour are poplars, hawthorns, lime, maple, mountain-ash, and very rarely the oak. It has been suggested that the very fact of its extreme rarity upon oak gave oak-grown mistleto its sacred character among the ancient Britons.
The Meadow-Saffron is more frequently known as the Autumnal Crocus, but we object to the name as conveying a wrong idea of the botanical characters of two distinct genera. Further, there is a true autumnal crocus (Crocus nudiflorus), though its claim to be considered British is open to doubt. Like Crocus, Meadow-Saffron has an underground solid stem (corm), resembling a bulb, and from this arise the flowers in succession from August to October. These flowers are of a pale purplish colour, and consist of a long slender tubular perianth, enlarging at its upper part into a bell-shape, and this portion is divided into six segments, to each of which a stamen is attached (Crocus has but three). The ovary lies deep within the calyx-tube, and from it arise three long threadlike styles, which are bent over near the tip, the inner side of which is the stigma.
The fruit develops during the winter, and by the spring is ripe. Then when the long, flat leaves make their appearance, the flower-stalk lengthens and brings the ripe capsule above the ground. Sometimes the flowers mistake the seasons and put in an appearance with the leaves in spring, but they are imperfect, and the perianth is greenish-white.
The name is from Colchis, where it is said to have grown abundantly.