Colchicum bivonae

Common name:   Family: Colchicaceae
Author: Guss. Botanical references: 50, 200
Synonyms: Colchicum visianii (Parl.), Colchicum sibthorpii (Baker.), Colchicum latifolium (Sibth.&Sm.), Colchicum bowlesianum (B.L.Burtt.)
Known Hazards: All parts of the plant, but especially the bulb200, are poisonous4, 7, 10, 19, 65. They cause vomiting, violent purging, serious inflammation of the stomach and bowels, and death232. Handling the corms can cause skin allergies in some people238.
Range: S. Europe.
Habitat: Mountainous regions in pinewood and scrub around 500 metres90, 148.
Edibility Rating (1-5): 0 Medicinal Rating (1-5): 0
Epithets: From a Dictionary of Botanical Epithets
colchicum = Colchis, west Georgia;

Physical Characteristics

Bulb growing to 0.15m by 0.15m . It is hardy to zone 6. It is in leaf from March to June, in flower from September to October, and the seeds ripen from April to June. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees and flies. The plant is self-fertile. We rate it 0/5 for edibility and 0/5 for medicinal use.

The plant prefers medium (loamy) soils and requires well-drained soil. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It requires moist soil.

Habitats and Possible Locations

Woodland, Cultivated Beds, Sunny Edge.

Edible Uses

None known

Medicinal Uses

None known

Other Uses

Plant breeding.

The poisonous alkaloid ‘colchicine’ is extracted from this plant and used to alter the genetic make-up of plants in an attempt to find new, improved varieties

148. It works by doubling the chromosome number89.

Cultivation details

Prefers a rich well-drained loam that does not dry out rapidly in summer1. Requires a very sunny position90. This is a very difficult species to grow outdoors because of its susceptibility to slug damage, it is best grown in a bulb frame90. Plants can take 4 – 5 years to flower when grown from seed164. Plant the bulbs about 7 – 10cm deep in July1. Plants seem to be immune to the predations of rabbits233.


Seed – best sown as soon as it is ripe in early summer in a seed bed or a cold frame1, 164. Germination can be very slow, taking up to 18 months at 15°c164. It is best to sow the seed thinly so that it is not necessary to transplant the seedlings for their first year of growth. Apply a liquid fertilizer during their first summer, however, to ensure they get sufficient nourishment. Prick out the seedlings once they are dormant, putting perhaps 2 plants per pot, and grow them on in a greenhouse or frame for at least a couple of years. Plant them out into their permanent positions when they are dormantK. The seedlings take 4 – 5 years to reach flowering size1. Division of the bulbs in June/July when the leaves have died down1. Larger bulbs can be planted out direct into their permanent positions, though it is best to pot up the smaller bulbs and grow them on in a cold frame for a year before planting them out. The plant can be divided every other year if a quick increase is required1.