Crocus hyemalis, Winter Crocus,
כרכום חורפי ,زعفران

Scientific name:  Crocus hyemalis Boiss. et Blanche
Common name:  Winter Crocus
Hebrew name:  כרכום חורפי
Arabic name:  زعفران
Family:  Iridaceae, אירוסיים

Crocus hyemalis, Winter Crocus, כרכום חורפי ,زعفران
Location: Carmel, Muhraka

Life form:  Geophyte, corm
Stems:  4-8 cm high
Leaves:  All basal, rosette, narrow ensiform leaf with a white central stripe along the leaf axis, margin entire
Inflorescence:  Solitary
Flowers:  White, yellow, 3 black stamens
Fruits / pods:  Capsule, numerous seeds
Flowering Period:  January, February, November, December
Habitat:  Batha, Phrygana
Distribution:  Mediterranean Woodlands and Shrublands, Semi-steppe shrublands
Chorotype:   Mediterranean
Summer shedding:  Ephemeral

Israel wildflowers, send flowers online
Location: Carmel, Muhraka


Derivation of the botanical name:
Crocus, Greek κρόκος, krokos "thread" and alludes to the stigmas,
In Hebrew it is called: karkom (כרכום), Aramaic kurkama (כרכמא), Persian and Arabic kurkum, all meaning saffron or saffron yellow.
In Talmudic Hebrew, the verb כרכם meant "to be come yellow".
hyemalis, of winter, wintry.
  • The standard author abbreviation Boiss. is used to indicate Pierre Edmond Boissier (1810 – 1885), a Swiss botanist, explorer and mathematician.
  • The standard author abbreviation Blanche is used to indicate Emanuel Blanche (1824 - 1908), a French botanist.
This is the commonest crocus of Israel, characterized by black anthers. All crocuses typically have three stamens.
The spice saffron is obtained from the stigmas of Crocus sativus, an autumn/fall-blooming species.
Safflower flowers (Carthamus tinctorius) are falsely sold as saffron.
Not everyone agrees that the karkom should be identified as saffron, i.e. Crocus sativus., but say that karkom was Curcuma longa - better known as turmeric.

Saffron and turmeric are not closely related botanically (turmeric is actually a kind of ginger), but they are both used to create a yellow color (both for food and as a dye). Saffron is actually the most expensive spice in the world, but turmeric is used as a cheaper substitute. So it is possible, that karkom in whatever original language simply meant "yellow". From there it became "crocus" and "curcuma".
In Modern Hebrew we find both saffron and turmeric with almost the same spelling. Karkom is crocus, and also saffron, although ze'afran זעפרן is more commonly used. Ze'afran is borrowed from the Arabic (as is the English word "saffron"), where it apparently is related to the word asfar - "yellow" (the plant safflower - another saffron substitute - also got its name from this Arabic root).

Saffron was grown from the 7th century in China, 10th in the Arab lands and Spain, and 11th in France and Germany. It was prized in England by the fourteenth century. It takes 20,000 stamen from the crocus to produce 125g (4 oz) of saffron.
Pliny reports that the benches and floors in public theaters were strewn with saffron, and the petals placed in small fountains to disperse the scent in large halls.
"With this the son of Saturn caught his wife in his embrace;
whereon the earth sprouted them a cushion of young grass,
with dew-bespangled lotus, crocus, and hyacinth,
so soft and thick that it raised them well above the ground.
Here they laid themselves down and overhead they were covered by a fair cloud of gold,
from which there fell glittering dew-drops."

Homer's Iliad, Book XIV, verse 347

Bible resources:
  1. Song of Songs 4:13-14
    Nard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon,
    With all the trees of frankincense,
    Myrrh and aloes, along with all the finest spices.

Israel wildflowers and native plants
Location: Carmel, Muhraka


Crocus hyemalis, Winter Crocus, כרכום חורפי ,زعفران
Location: Mount Tabor


Israel, Nature, Botany, Flora
Location: Carmel, Muhraka


Crocus hyemalis, Winter Crocus, כרכום חורפי ,زعفران
Location: Carmel, Muhraka