meadow saffron or autumn crocus, perennial garden ornamental ( Colchicum autumnale ) of the family Liliaceae (lily family). Native to Europe and N Africa, it has escaped from gardens to meadows and fields in some parts of the United States. Its poisonous corms and seeds were the source of the drug colchicine. The purplish flowers, which bloom in the fall when the leaves are gone, resemble those of the true crocus and true saffron (of the iris family) but have six stamens instead of three. Other species of Colchicum are also popular garden plants. Meadow saffron is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Liliopsida, order Liliales, family Liliaceae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.