Naked Ladies

No – nothing to do with the naughty Irish Daily Star and the nasty paparazzi. Just another instance of how you can see too much (this time online) and be given the wrong idea….

Don’t believe everything you read on the web!  If you go around looking for “Autumn Crocus” (one English name for the German Herbstzeitlose, colchicum autumnale), especially in association with saffron (DE: Safran) you will find a hotch-potch of information. One thing that seems to be true (from my books) is that both the names – Naked Lady and Autumn Crocus – are applied to two amazingly similar plants from different flower families. Mine is from the lily family.

I carried on with my searching because the day after my last blog I saw more of my “naked ladies” to my great surprise in a garden about six houses along from our house in the Naumannstrasse. It all made me get clear about the stigma (the Stempel in German) which in this case is threefold and, joined into the style (Griffel), extends deep into the ground where the ovary is below the level the frost will reach so that the “fruit” can then come up with the leaves in spring. There are six stamens (made up of filament and anther, see photo) and it is from the anther that pollen gets to the stigma with the help of insects.

The whole plant is poisonous. Do not be misled by its main name in English, Meadow Saffron. And if you are a hunter-gatherer, looking for free food and fresh vitamins in spring, be very careful not to confuse its leaves with those of ramsons (Bärlauch) – I found a website for apothecaries that pointed out that fatalities are not unknown.

The autumn crocus that is a true crocus, from the iris family, is crocus sativus, and if anybody is growing it in Ilmenau I’ve yet to hear. Blogging seems to take up time! This week the time was easier to find than when all the teaching and translation is afoot. I did have to steel myself to using the bit of spare time for some tidying of teaching notes and bookshelves… a slow process if you start reading, as I always do! I found Stanley Varo’s monograph on Little Germany, in Bradford (which you could call my home town). Think it may be my next bit of the miscellany…TTFN

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