Crocus (Crocus spp) are members of the iris family native to Central and Eastern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, and western China. Each stem bears one cup-shaped, six-petaled flower with three stamens.
Various shades of purple are the usual flower color, but white and yellow also occur and the garden trade has produced a huge variety of colored cultivars (I am looking forward to bright orange crocuses next spring!) The leaves typically look like grass shoots and the entire plant is generally less than six inches tall including the flower. (New cultivars get bigger all the time though.)
There are about 80 species of crocus. The most well-known crocus in the garden trade is the dutch spring-blooming crocus Crocus vernus. It and many of its brethren, are often the first flowers to bloom in spring with Crocus tommasinianus being the very earliest. Crocus sativus, an autumn blooming variety, is the source of saffron.
Other Names Spring blooming crocus, spring crocus, early crocus, snow crocus,
See also saffron for autumn crocus, saffron crocus
Crocus flowers have a rich history and folklore, with ancient Greeks using them in ceremonies and Egyptians using them for medicinal purposes.
Propagation of crocus can be done through corms, and they are known for their ability to naturalize and spread over time.
Harvesting and storing crocus stigmas, known as saffron, require delicate precision as it takes thousands of flowers to produce a single ounce of this valuable spice.
Crocus is revered in the world of magick, believed to possess energies of love, protection, and psychic insight, making it a staple in spellwork and rituals.
History and Folklore
The name crocus is krokos in Greek, karkom in Hebrew, kurkama in Aramaic, and kurkum in Arabic and Persian. It means yellow, presumably referring to the saffron spice obtained from the autumn saffron crocus although the petals of this flower are actually purple! Saffron is an extremely expensive ingredient made from the sexual organs of Crocus sativa that also produces a fabulous yellow dye.
|Crocus is often associated with the arrival of spring. Its vibrant blooms symbolize the awakening of nature and the end of winter.
|Hope and Rebirth
|The Crocus flower symbolizes hope, renewal, and rebirth. Its emergence from the ground after a long winter represents new beginnings and the triumph of life over adversity.
|Joy and Happiness
|Crocus is considered a symbol of joy and happiness. Its cheerful blooms are believed to bring positive energy and lift the spirits.
|Love and Romance
|In some traditions, Crocus is associated with love and romance. It is used to convey sentiments of affection, passion, and deep emotions.
|Inner Beauty and Transformation
|Crocus is seen as a symbol of inner beauty and personal transformation. It represents the growth and blossoming of one’s true self.
Although many of our garden crocuses are “Dutch”, they are not native to the Netherlands but were first brought there by an ambassador from the Holy Roman Empire.
Most crocuses like full sun and well-drained soil, though there is quite a bit of variation between species. Be sure to do your research for the specific species you have.
Crocuses grow from corms, which are planted in autumn about 2-3 inches deep. They will pop up from beneath the snow in the early spring. They can be killed by a late frost though.
Autumn crocus, or saffron crocus doesn’t bloom in the spring but in the autumn. In areas colder than zone 6, autumn crocuses may not do well. After the first couple of frosts, but before winter has really set in, they should be dug up and stored covered with sand or peat moss in a cool dry place, about 50 degrees until after the danger of frost has passed in the spring.
After about 4 to 6 years, your crocuses will need to be divided. Do this by digging up the corms right after the foliage has faded, replanting them right away, or storing them in a box of sand or peat moss until autumn planting time.
Squirrels like to eat crocus corms.
Harvesting & Storage
You can pick any crocus and put it in a vase to bring its beauty into the house but it won’t last long.
Crocus sativa is an autumn blooming crocus that provides saffron. The finest saffron is made from the stigmas. The next finest grade is from the stamens. The petals can be eaten as a vegetable. Harvest the stigmas and stamens (there are 3 of each, if there aren’t, you’ve got the wrong flower) on a sunny day when the flowers are fully open. You can pick the whole flower, or simply pluck out the parts you want with your fingers or a pair of tweezers.
Lay your stigmas flat on a bit of waxed paper in a warm place to dry and store in an airtight container.
|Ritual and Spell Applications
|Renewal and Transformation
|Crocus is associated with renewal and transformation. It can be used in rituals to embrace personal growth, release old patterns, and invite positive change.
|Joy and Happiness
|Crocus can be used in magickal practices to attract joy and happiness into one’s life. It can be incorporated into spells or charms to enhance positive energies and uplift the spirits.
|Love and Romance
|Crocus is believed to have magickal properties related to love and romance. It can be used in spells or rituals to attract love, strengthen relationships, or enhance passion.
|Intuition and Psychic Abilities
|Crocus is associated with intuition and psychic abilities. It can be used to enhance divination practices, meditation, and the development of spiritual insight.
|Spring Equinox Celebration
|Crocus is often incorporated into rituals and celebrations during the spring equinox, representing the arrival of spring, rebirth, and the balance between light and dark.
Any crocus (autumn, spring, whatever) can be used in spells for love, friendship, settling disputes, peace and divination.
Saffron can be used to make a fabulous bright yellow dye, paint or ink. You need to use a mordant such as alum to make the saffron colorfast or the color will be gone the first time you use it. It can also be used to color eggs. Use vinegar in the water to set the color.
Saffron has some traditional healing uses, but spring crocus should never be consumed.
|Uses and Applications
|Crocus has anti-inflammatory properties and can be used to alleviate inflammation-related conditions such as arthritis and joint pain.
|Crocus is known to have mood-enhancing effects and may help with symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress. It can promote relaxation and a sense of well-being.
|Crocus has been used in traditional medicine to support digestion. It may help alleviate digestive discomfort, improve appetite, and aid in digestive processes.
|Crocus contains compounds that are beneficial for the skin. It can be used topically in creams or oils to promote skin health, reduce blemishes, and improve complexion.
|Crocus is believed to have respiratory benefits and can be used to relieve respiratory issues such as coughs, congestion, and bronchial conditions.
Stigmas gathered from Crocus sativa (and only this one, no other species!) is a common flavoring in many ethnic dishes. The red-orange threads should be soaked for 20 minutes in whatever liquid you are using for your recipe and then added early in the cooking process.
Saffron is especially good with rice and is a traditional ingredient in many rice dishes.
You only need to use a few threads of saffron for cooking. Its flavor is not strong, but it doesn’t get stronger if you use more, it just wastes money.
Be sure if you are eating a crocus (petals, stamen, stigmas) that you are eating Crocus sativa. It will have six petals, three bright orangish red stigmas and three similarly colored stamen and 6-9 grass-like leaves. The petals will be violet in color, darker at the throat and somewhat veiny.