A member of the Iridaceae (Iris) family, Crocus speciosus is also known as the Large Autumn Crocus and grows under the chestnut trees along the North Walk in the Parks, where it is currently putting on a dazzling display. The bulbs, or ‘corms’, from which the plant grows are hardy, producing flowers before the leaves emerge. The flowers are silvery lilac with a white throat. This is similar to last week’s entry, except that it has furry stamens rather than singular ones. It grows to around 10cm high.
It will tolerate exposed or sheltered sites, but the flowers will last longer if it has some shade. The soil should be well drained but the plant will be quite happy without many nutrients. It does prefer full sun, but will do well in a sunny spot under trees. Crocuses are generally free of pests, although squirrels can sometimes dig up the corms. They can be grown from seed, sown in pots in a cold frame, or you can remove cormlets when the main corm is dormant. For more information see the RHS website.