My Latin name Colchicum autumnale comes from Colchis, an area on the eastern edge of the Black Sea – now in Georgia – which is said to have been my original home; and ‘autumna’, Latin for autumn, for my flowering period, from September to November.
Another view is that my name is linked to Medea, the notorious sorceress who – according to a rather grim Greek story – lived in Colchis.
Medea knew all there was to know about poisonous herbs, and added me – a deadly plant! – to a magic potion that rejuvenated her lover, Jason, and helped him retrieve the Golden Fleece.
That was nice of her, but she used the same magic potion to avenge herself on Pelias, Jason’s uncle, after he refused to give Jason dominion over Iolcus.
Medea told Pelias that the drink would make him, too, younger, though he would have to let himself be cut into pieces first. Spoiler alert: it didn’t work, and Pelias died.
Whether I really did originally grow at Colchis is open to question.
The Ancient Greeks, who called me ‘kolchikon’, may have confused me with ‘Colchicum variegatum’, a lilac-coloured crocus which certainly did grow there, but was much less poisonous.