Colchicum autumnale 

Scope: Global & Europe
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Plantae Tracheophyta Liliopsida Liliales Colchicaceae

Scientific Name: Colchicum autumnale L.
Common Name(s):
English Meadow Saffron, Autumn crocus
Colchicum commune Neck.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2014
Date Assessed: 2014-02-03
Assessor(s): Chadburn, H.
Reviewer(s): Allen, D.J.
Global and European regional assessment: Least Concern (LC)
EU 27 regional assessment: Least Concern (LC)

This is a very widespread species in Europe and it is common in its core range. The extent of occurrence (EOO) greatly exceeds the values needed for a threatened category and it is inferred that the population and area of occupancy (AOO) also exceed such values. It is not thought to have suffered any significant overall declines as the population is noted to have declined in some areas but increased in others. It is assessed as Least Concern.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:An European endemic (Govaerts 2014), native throughout much of Europe (Polunin 1969, Jaeger and Flesch 1990, Jung et al. 2011, BCGI 2013, ENSCO 2014) except for the north, where it has been introduced to some countries, including Denmark and Norway. Although its range is almost continuous through Europe, there are some gaps in the distribution such as the Great Hungarian Plain, where precipitation is low and soils are partly salinized (Jung et al. 2011).
Countries occurrence:
Albania; Andorra; Austria; Belgium; Bulgaria; Croatia; Czech Republic; France (France (mainland)); Germany; Greece (Greece (mainland)); Hungary; Ireland; Italy (Italy (mainland)); Netherlands; Poland; Romania; Slovenia; Spain (Spain (mainland)); Switzerland; Ukraine (Ukraine (main part)); United Kingdom (Great Britain)
Additional data:
Lower elevation limit (metres):80
Upper elevation limit (metres):1700
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:The species can occur in high population densities, for example, in semi-natural grasslands in Austria and Germany where, as it is toxic to livestock, control measures may even be attempted (Winter et al. 2013).

There have been some declines mainly as a result of agricultural intensification, for example in Ukraine. However, in its core distribution area, such as in parts of Germany and Austria, populations have increased recently.
Current Population Trend:Stable
Additional data:

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:The species is a perennial geophyte found in damp meadows, open woods and river banks over a range of altitudes from near seal level to 1,700 m. The leaves appear in spring and the flowers appear, after the leaves have withered, in autumn. It favours moderately nutrient rich and deep soils with pH values of 4-8. Important pollinators are Bombus hortorum and the honey bee (Apis mellifera) (Jung et al. 2011).

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: The plant is widely cultivated as an ornamental. All parts of the plant contain toxins with the highest concentration in the bulbs and seeds. Colchicine from this plant has been used in the treatment of several diseases including leukaemia and allergic diseases and as a diuretic. Today it is mostly used pharmaceutically in the treatment of gout and familial Mediterranean Fever. It has been used homeopathically in the treatment of gout and polyarthritis.

In Veterinary medicine it is used for arthritis and as a diuretic (Jaeger and Flesch 1990). Colchicine extracted from this plant has been used to alter cell division in plants in an attempt to find new varieties (Polunin 1969).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): This is a widespread species and very common in the core of its range. However, it can be found in Red Data Books of several countries at the distribution limits: Great Britain, Ireland, The Netherlands, Luxembourg, Lithuania, Estonia, Belarus, Ukraine, Albania, Bulgaria and northern federal states of Germany. A decline in the number of sites has been noted in Poland and Ukraine mainly as a result of intensification of agriculture, draining, ploughing and re-seeding grassland. In addition collection from the wild is noted in Ukraine, Serbia and Poland (Jung et al. 2011).

The species is known to occur in semi-natural grasslands in Austria and Germany where, as it is toxic to livestock, control measures may even be attempted (Winter et al. 2013) which may pose a threat to local populations.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: This species occurs in national parks within its range, such as Tomorri National Park in Albania (Ruci et al. 2001). It is conserved ex situ in many botanic gardens and seed banks such as Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, London, and the Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum of the Freie Universit├Ąt Berlin, Germany (BCGI 2013, ENSCO 2014).

Agri-environment schemes that support low input agriculture may in this way promote population growth (Jung et al. 2011).

Citation: Chadburn, H. 2014. Colchicum autumnale. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2014: e.T202977A2758363. . Downloaded on 22 August 2018.
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