Colchicum luteum

Common name:   Family: Colchicaceae
Author: Baker. Botanical references: 200
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: E. Asia – China to the Himalayas.
Habitat: Stony or earthy hillsides and alpine meadows at higher altitudes200.
Edibility Rating (1-5): 0 Medicinal Rating (1-5): 2
Epithets: From a Dictionary of Botanical Epithets
colchicum = Colchis, west Georgia; luteum = yellow;

Physical Characteristics

Bulb growing to 0.1m by 0.1m . It is hardy to zone 7. It is in leaf from March to June, in flower from May to July, 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 2/5 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

Cultivated Beds.

Edible Uses

None known

Medicinal Uses

Alterative; Anodyne; Aphrodisiac; Carminative; Laxative.

The corms are alterative, aphrodisiac, carminative and laxative

240. They are used in India to treat gout, rheumatism and diseases of the liver and spleen240. They contain the toxic alkaloid ‘colchicine’ which is used externally to relieve pain211, 240. The dried corms contain around 0.25% colchicine and the seed about 0.4%240.

Other Uses

The following notes are for C. autumnale. Since this plant also contains colchicine it can be assumed that it has the same usesK. 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 varieties148. 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 species is hardy to at least -15°c200. Plants can take 4 – 5 years to flower when grown from seed164. 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.