Crocus is a genus of over 80 species of small, perennial flowering plants in the iris family (Iridaceae). They can bloom in the spring or in the fall, though the name "autumn crocus" is also applied to plants of the genus Colchicum.
Crocuses are native to the Mediterranean area and the Alps. Most garden varieties are descended from an alpine species, C. vernus.
Crocuses grow from corms (bulbs) which propagate by producing cormels, or small offshoots, that will grow into new corms. To transplant them, the corms are collected after the foliage dies and replanted in the late summer (for autumn-flowering species) or autumn (for spring-flowering ones). Most will start flowering in their third year.
All crocuses require well-drained soil and full sunlight. Some of the alpine-derived crocuses can be hardy down to -10°F without snow cover, but some varieties can only survive to 20°F.
The saffron (C. sativus) has been cultivated since ancient times for use as a spice, dye, and medicine. It is still used as a spice today, albeit a very expensive one, since it takes over 4000 flower to produce one ounce of the spice. Crocus bulbs are also eaten, both raw and cooked, in Turkey.