Fragrance in Colchicums

Tom Mitchell
Fri, 26 Sep 2008 12:43:34 PDT
I've recently been given about 20 un-named Colchicum cultivars by a  
good gardening friend and, inspired by Jane's post, I went into the  
garden to sniff them. I'd always thought that Colchicum were  
unscented but, to my surprise, I noticed that most do indeed have a  
mild (to my nose) scent. Several of the cultivars that I was given  
have a scent reminiscent of honey. I love scented plants but  
ironically have a poor sense of smell. I occasionally wonder how  
differently each of us perceives scent, surely the hardest sense to  
articulate, except by reference to another smell!

Does anyone know of a reference work on Colchicum more recent (and  
better illustrated) than E.A. Bowles' book form the fifties? I'd love  
to try and identify what I've got...


> Message: 3
> Date: Wed, 24 Sep 2008 17:42:53 -0700
> From: Jane McGary <>
> Subject: [pbs] Fragrance in Colchicum
> To: Pacific Bulb Society <>
> Message-ID: <>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"; format=flowed
> This afternoon I was looking at the colchicums in the bulb frame and
> noticed a sweet fragrance. It proved to emanate from a large- 
> flowered one
> that I received originally under the name "Colchicum atropurpureum  
> 'Drake's
> Form'." "C. atropurpureum" is a name that appears in Stearn's old
> monograph, but E. A. Bowles's discussion of it is both confused and
> confusing; he seems to mean that the name has been variously  
> applied, and
> concludes that "there is no species to which it can be ascribed,"  
> although
> saying that it is close to C. turcicum -- an opinion repeated in
> Christopher Brickell's entry for it in the AGS Encyclopaedia of  
> Alpines. I
> don't know which Drake found this form; perhaps it was the English
> nurseryman Jack Drake. Very likely it should just be called Colchicum
> 'Drake's Form'.
> Anyway, after noticing this naturally I went around sniffing colchicum
> flowers, and found no other with this particular honey scent. A few  
> were
> slightly malodorous, and most had a faint, mildly pleasing scent that
> reminds me of a good-quality non-perfumed milled white face soap. C.
> speciosum hasn't opened here yet, but it is the parent of many garden
> hybrids, so I'll await its fragrance to see if that is where  
> 'Drake's Form'
> got it.
> Incidentally, while looking up "atropurpureum," I discovered that  
> the name
> C. laetum has been applied to two different entities. The true  
> species is
> small-flowered, and the large-flowered plant with many narrow-tepaled
> flowers, which is what I have here and have distributed, is  
> something else
> -- one author says it is allied with C. byzantinum. So if you have C. 
> laetum from me, it is C. laetum hort. (the abbreviation used to  
> designate
> "taxonomic" names that are used in horticulture but not recognized  
> in the
> botanical literature), and we must both continue trying to get the  
> true
> species, while blaming the English and the Dutch, who have cast us  
> into
> this confusion, though in the process providing us with some very  
> beautiful
> garden flowers.
> Jane McGary
> Northwestern Oregon, USA
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