Spring Crocus Flower
By Joy and Brian Pape
The crocus reminds us that no matter how harsh the winter, spring always returns. —Author unknown
Spring has sprung! What a nice time to visit and identify the plants on the Village.
We asked Russell Dungan, Village View’s February Character of the Village, Senior Horticultural Technician of the Hudson River Park Trust (HRPT) if he’d like to help us identify a plant for the month. His answer was…
Brian and I were walking the esplanade admiring the budding of some purple and white flowers, some of which encircled the tree trunks. What we didn’t know at the time was they were crocus flowers.
Without us telling him what we were looking at, Russell sent us a text, with pictures of the very same flowers.
He wrote, “crocus flowers are throughout the Village.” We got our answer—the crocus is the plant of the month for April 2023. Thank you, Russell!
The spring crocus is often called the light bulb plant due to its shape before its petals open up. They are not bulbs but “corms,” a bulb-like base of a stem. It is one of the first flowers to thrust through the cold ground during winter, leading to its reputation as a predecessor of warmth, light, cheerfulness, happiness and joy.
Note: Aside from its beauty, the spring crocus can be poisonous (toxic).
For animals—We reached out to Dr. Cerniello, DVM at Greenwich Village Animal Hospital. She reached out to her former toxicology professor, Dr. Ibrahim Shokry, who answered much like The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA®):
“Spring has sprung and we are itching to get outside and spend time in the garden! Before you do, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) has some helpful tips to keep your furry friends safe in your springtime garden.
Crocus has two different kinds of plants, one that blooms in spring (Crocus sp.) and one that blooms in the fall (Colchicum autumnale). The spring crocus can cause gastrointestinal upset like vomiting, diarrhea and drooling if any of the plant is ingested. The fall crocus is significantly more dangerous and can cause excessive vomiting and diarrhea and possibly even liver, kidney or bone marrow damage.”\
Russell said, “You don’t have to teach dogs in the wild what not to eat. They know what to stay away from.”
For humans–Although the spring crocus is sometimes considered relatively safe for humans, the autumn crocus is not.
As in animals, the spring crocus may cause gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting and/or drooling.
According to Washington State University, “all parts of the Autumn Crocus plant are highly poisonous as it contains the alkaloid colchicine. Poisoning from this plant resembles arsenic poisoning; the symptoms (which occur two to five hours after the plant has been eaten) include burning in the mouth and throat, diarrhea, stomach pain, vomiting, and kidney failure.”
In either case, be careful that you and your animal avoid ingesting these plants. If one has concerns, reach out to the National Capital Poison Control Center at 888-222-1222 for more guidance and information.
About the authors: Russell Dungan is the Senior Horticultural Technician of the Hudson River Park Trust (HRPT). Brian and Joy Pape are Founders & regular contributors of The Village View.