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common name for members of the genus Iris of the Iridaceae, a family of perennial herbs that includes the crocuses, freesias, and gladioli. The family is characterized by thickened stem organs (bulbs, corms, and rhizomes) and by linear or sword-shaped
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a genus of perennial cormous stemless plants of the family Iridaceae. The flowers are solitary or, less commonly, in groups of two or three. Glumaceous scales that seem to arise directly from the bulb surround the variously colored flowers. The numerous radical and linear leaves usually develop during or after the flowering period.
There are about 80 species in Europe and Asia. The USSR has 19 species, found mainly in Transcaucasia, in the Crimea, and in the mountainous meadows of the Tien-Shan and the Dzhungar Alatau. Crocuses are cultivated in many countries, including the USSR. They are used as a coloring and flavoring agent by the food and candy industries. Many species have especially beautiful flowers.
The most common species raised as ornamentals are C. tomasinianus, whose light violet flowers bloom in the beginning or middle of April; the common crocus (C. vernus), whose lilac, white, or purple-striped flowers bloom in April; C. chrysanthus, whose yellow flowers bloom in February and March; and C. speciosus, whose lilac flowers bloom in September. Crocuses are propagated by bulbs, corms, or seeds. The soil must be light in texture and fertilized with humus. The corms are planted at a depth of 5–6 cm. Autumn-blooming species are planted in the spring, and spring-blooming species are planted in the fall and covered with leaves and spruce branches. The corms of plants that have blossomed are dug out, dried, and cleaned of earth, roots, and old scales; they are stored at a temperature of 17°C until planting. Plants grown from seed bloom in the second or third season. Garden and wild crocuses are planted in groups on lawns or in rock gardens. Garden forms are often forced during the winter.
Stigmata from the saffron crocus (C. sativus) were formerly used medicinally in a compound tincture of aloe and in infusions of opium and saffron.