Following on from last weekend’s catkins (posts passim), another sign of spring has just emerged: the croci (or crocuses) have burst into flower in the pocket park in Chaplin Road, Easton. On a bright, sunny day the flowers shine like beacons.

crocus in flower

Although not native to the British Isles, crocus sativus, the saffron crocus, has long been cultivated for the spice saffron.

Indeed, such cultivation has given rise to some place names. For starters, there’s Saffron Walden in Essex, as well as Croydon in the sprawl of Greater London.

As regards the latter, the theory accepted by most philologists is that the name Croydon derives originally from the Anglo-Saxon croh, meaning “crocus”, and denu, “valley”, indicating that it was a centre for the cultivation of saffron. It has been argued that this cultivation is likely to have taken place in the Roman period, when the saffron crocus would have been grown to supply the London market, most probably for medicinal purposes, and particularly for the treatment of granulation of the eyelids.

The croci shown above are not saffron crocus, but are still a welcome sight. On a sunny day the air inside the flower cup of the crocus is said to be some degrees warmer than the surrounding air, making it a welcome place to visit for early pollinating insects.