Why the autumn crocus flowers in the autumn (054)

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Few plants flower in late autumn. One exception is the ‘naked’ autumn crocus, a crocus which flowers without leaves. It is a special type of bulb. Most plants and trees prefer to show their attractive flowers in spring and summer. The crocus was once just another flower. In no respect did it stand out from all the other flowers’ amazing colours. Read now about how both autumn and the crocus mutually benefitted from a unique solution and good collaboration.

Everyone always assumes that all the plants, animals and seasons were simple ready-made inventions. In reality that was not the case. On reaching earth in their naked form, they could choose their new appearance. The choice was enormous. There were piles of feathers, skins, colours, legs, ears, mouths, snouts, beaks and tails. The peacock had first choice and took the largest feathers, the most beautiful colours and even an elegant crown. The iris took all the real colours of the rainbow. And when all the plants had somehow put together their appearance, the piles had gone. There was nothing left for the rain, snow, winds and seasons. All the attributes had been used up. The winds were so angry that it unleashed its storms. With great difficulty the snow somehow managed to get some white from the little snowdrop. But there was nothing left for the seasons. When they went and complained to God, He offered them the option of choosing elements which fitted their season. Spring and summer went first and chose the warmth of the sun, the long light days, love and birth and most of the flowers. Winter chose cold, bareness, chill and dark days. There was little left for autumn to choose from. One day autumn was sitting grumbling on a stone:”I’m neither one thing nor the other. I have a bit of everything, but nothing special or distinctive.” Well, that day he was really feeling sorry for himself. Close to the stone where autumn was sitting was a crocus flowering with her lilac blooms. She heard autumn’s sad lament. Very quietly she said to him: “Autumn, autumn, listen to me! I have a plan. I’m not happy either. Maybe we can help each other. Being such a small flower in the midst of all of spring’s amazing colours, hardly anyone even notices me. I would love to be special and stand out from the crowd like the rose; or flower at night like the evening primrose; or be one of the first to flower like the blackthorn; or intoxicate onlookers with my scent like the hawthorn. But there’s nothing special about me. Nobody hardly notices me. But perhaps I could be the last flower to blossom with you in the autumn. When almost everything has faded, people will be happy when they spot my blooms. And autumn, what’s more, you’d also have a beautiful and happy flower in your season. Don’t you think this is a good plan?
The morose autumn was taken by surprise and could only point out the difficulties. He sighed and said: “A great idea, crocus, but your fruit will freeze in winter and I wouldn’t want that to happen to you.”
“Well, autumn, that remains to be seen,” she replied, “for every problem there’s an answer for every problem. I’m absolutely sure that there’s a solution for my dream. Will you come back tomorrow?” By the next day she had thought up a very special solution for autumn: “I will flower for you in the autumn. Then I will lie dormant underground in the winter. And in the spring my leaves and seeds will grow. That’s a good solution for me, because hungry animals won’t gobble up my fruits in the winter. If we do this, we’ll both happy. Me because I will be a star attraction in the autumn and you will also have a beautiful flower blooming in your season.”
Autumn looked happy. The first time for a long while.

In actual fact the autumn crocus, Cólchicum autumnále, is an early flowerer. In autumn only its bloom with a strong ressemblance to a spring crocus is visible above ground. The substantial tulip-like leaves with a seedhead in the heart of the plant only appear in the spring. Underground the plant has a fleshy bulb. Both seeds and leaves are poisonous. The native autumn crocus is fairly rare and mainly found in the northern border between Limburg and Flanders. The cultivated autumn crocus is popular as a garden plant.

© Els Baars, natuurverhalen.nl