Last Saturday, the first two purple crocuses (croci if you prefer) appeared in our front yard. No, they didn't actually open that day. They just poked their spiral-wound heads above the leaf litter to test the cold winds. Sunday was a different story. A patch of a neighbor's front yard turned purple as his crocuses greeted the warmer temperatures. By Tuesday, my white and yellow crocuses also fully opened. I noticed them on my way across our yard to work in the vegetable garden.
I'm surprised my crocuses lasted as many years as they have. They came with the house when we bought it in 1984. Their numbers have dwindled and the large patch in the front yard is down to one or two. I'm not replacing them with more crocuses as I let the yard go native, but neither will I dig out and discard perfectly healthy, beautiful, non-invasive plants that signal the arrival of spring. You might say I'm attached to them.
Crocus is a large genus in the iris family. A particular species (Crocus sativus, similar to the garden variety in the photos) is the source of saffron (from the Arabic or Old Persian word za'faran), a spice derived from the dried, aromatic stigmas. The saffron crocus is a sterile species that does not exist in the wild, so it requires continued human help to survive. I remember my grandmother using it as a poultry seasoning, but beware - saffron is now the most expensive spice in the world. It's very labor intensive and each flower yields only a tiny amount.
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