Beautiful meadow saffron

Beautiful meadow saffron

Beautiful meadow saffron

Specification & Spread

Fresh colchicum corms — bulbotubera colchici recentia
Beautiful meadow saffron — colchicum speciosum stev. Woronow’s colchicum — colchicum woronowii bokeria ( = c. Liparochiadys woronow)
Melanthiaceae family
Other names: autumn crocus, distaff thistle, meadow saffron.
Beautiful meadow saffron is a perennial herbaceous plant with a peculiar developmental cycle. The plant blooms in late summer or early autumn. Next spring leaves and fruits appear and ripen in summer. Then the above-ground part of the plant dies completely.
Under the ground, the plant develops a biennial fleshy corm of a rounded heart-shaped or ovoid, up to 7 cm long and 3-4 cm in diameter.
The corm is covered with brownish membranaceous palea outside. On the one side there is a notch, where by the fall develops a new shortened underground generative shoot. The lower internode swells and grows into a new corm.
The new corm in August – September brings to the surface 1-3 flowers without leaves.
The old corm dies.
The flowers are large, pink-purple or pale lilac, with a simple funnel-bell-shaped and trimerous perianth.
The perianth tube is 20-25 cm long, and above the ground it protrudes only 8-10 cm.
There are 6 stamens.
The pistil with the tripartite ovary is hidden in the tube of the perianth under the ground, where the fertilized ovary is wintering, and the fetus begins to develop. In the spring, the upper internodes are pulled out and give an above-ground stalk, which develops 4 long broadly lanceolate or oblong fleshy green leaves with parallel veining.
Then, the fruit appears above the ground – an elliptical three-capsule multi-seeded capsule up to 5 cm long which is green at first and brown when it ripen.
Spreading. Colchicum grows in Ciscaucasia, on the Main Caucasian Range, as well as in the mountains of Western Transcaucasia and Eastern Georgia. In Abkhazia, there is a similar species – Woronow’s colchicum. It is also allowed for harvesting as a medicinal raw material.
Habitat. In the subalpine forest zone on forest glades and edges, along mountain slopes at an altitude of 1800-3000 m above sea level, on subalpine meadows among tall grasses. Colchicum is most abundant in mid-mountain meadows with high herbage and loose sod. The main industrial preparations are carried out in the Adler district of the Krasnodar Territory (Russia).


The corms contain:

  • 0.4-1.6% of the tropolone alkaloids with nitrogen in the side chain, the main of them are colhamine and colchicine.

There are also:

  • starch,
  • mono – and disaccharides,
  • phenol carboxylic acids, flavonoids.

Harvesting and storage of raw materials

Harvesting. The corms are harvested in the fall during the flowering period of the plant, from late August to mid-October. Only large corms are harvested (at least 4 cm long and 3 cm in diameter), small ones are buried again. It is dug carefully so as not to damage, as damaged corms are quickly rotten.
It is impossible to wash corms, as this reduces the quality of raw materials. All the pieces of colchicum are poisonous, so be careful while harvesting(!).
Security measures. While harvesting in forests, where beautiful meadow saffron is renewed mainly by seed, at least 10-20 flowering plants per 100 m2 of thickets should be left, and repeated harvesting on this site should be carried out only after 4-5 years. On mid-mountain and sub-alpine meadows, where plants reproduce vegetatively, harvesting can be carried out more intensively, leaving only 5-10 flowering plants per 100 m2 of vegetation, and the intervals between repeated harvesting can be reduced to 3 years.

The corms are fresh, peeled from the ground, flower shoots and buds.
In shape they are rounded-heart-shaped or ovate, up to 7 cm long and up to 6 cm wide. On the one side it is more flat, with a longitudinal strigate, dense and covered with brown membranous peel.
In the cross-section, the corm has a more or less reniform shape. The surface of the cross-section without lamination is white with yellowish spots.
The smell is weak and unpleasant. The taste is not determined. The raw materials are poisonous(!). The surface moisture is not allowed.

Properties and application

Colchicine and colchamine are the most studied of the alkaloids of colchicum. Both alkaloids are karyoclastic poisons, that is, can cause the disintegration of nuclei in different cells of the body.
The mechanism of action is based on the ability of these alkaloids to stop division at the metaphase stage, forming bizarre nuclei and subsequent cell death.
The karyoclastic effect is especially pronounced in organs with the highest intensity of cell division: tumor cells, thymus gland, epithelium of parenchymal organs, tissues of blood-forming organs in which atrophic and necrotic changes of myeloid, lymphoid and erythroblastic elements develop.

Application of colchicum

The corms of colchicum are used as raw materials for colchamine and colchicine alkaloids.

Colchamine preparations are used in complex treatment with:

  • chronic myeloid leukemia,
  • skin cancer
  • respiratory tract papillomas,
  • with breast cancer recurrences,
  • with malignant tumors of the esophagus, stomach and rectum.

Colchicine has been proposed for the treatment of gout and amyloidosis. Colchicine is used to produce polyploid plant forms.

During cancer of the skin of the III – IV degree.
All colchicum preparations are contraindicated for use in individuals with marked inhibition of the hematopoietic function of the bone marrow, as well as in diarrhea and diabetes.
The use is prohibited for children, pregnant women and women during breastfeeding.