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Colchicum macrophyllum

Colchicum macrophyllum An autumn flowered species from Crete, Rhodes and SW Turkey, where it resides in rocky terrain, often close to woodland and scrub. It is found up to 750m in quite widespread, but scattered locations.

It was first described in 1951, although it had been misidentified in the 19th century as Colchicum variegatum. It was soon in the garden of E.A. Bowles who was quick to detect differences between the Cretan and Rhodes selections.

It flowers in September in the UK with funnel shaped flowers, some 7cm long, which taper to rounded point. They have a pale pink, nearly white background with delicate tessellations varying from pink to purple in a diffuse pattern. The filaments are white and support dark purple anthers which unusually dehisce to reveal greenish pollen. Throughout their development they provide an effective contrast to the pale background of the flower. In spring the leaves emerge. The uppermost leaves are quite extraordinarily large and reminiscent of a Veratrum . They are quite handsome, but do require ample space to mature and not over crowd neighbours.

They have proven to be excellent plants for hot dry, often quite impovished sites. One site is at the base of a yew hedge and another adjacent to a shed and here they flower regularly. They require lifting about every three years or they become too crowded and flower less well. I plant back in the same site, with the remains of old roots removed and humus and fertiliser added to encourage strong growth next year. June and July are the best months to lift Colchicum, when they are completely dormant. The leathery coat of the corm is a haven for the Keeled Slug and replanting time is the only time to settle the score in favour of the gardener!

Rod Leeds