Naked Ladies in Everleigh Ashes

Dr John Moon (main words) and David Beeson (images and introduction). 1st September 2021

Photographing the Naked Ladies … now do not get too excited, this may not the article you thought it might be!

As you will all know, Naked Ladies is a common name of the Autumn Crocus, Meadow Saffron, scientific name: Colchicum autumnale. This is a toxic, UK native that flowers in September and resembles true crocuses. This is, however, in a different plant family. It is not the plant that gives us the kitchen saffron. Biologically extracts from the plant can be used to disrupt nuclear division in the laboratory, hence its toxicity.

The photographs were taken in Everleigh Ashes, Salisbury Plain. This species also occurs in Collingbourne Woods near Andover. The plant is not common, but commercial bulbs can be purchased in a variety of colours.

Group of flowers. The leaves are not present during the flowering season.
The plant was flowering along the grassy footpaths and under dense shade. This is the spot.
Very like a garden crocus, but with a very long corolla (perianth) tube.
Group of plants.
Meadow saffron bud. When it opens the sepals and petals are the same colour, but in two rings of 3. Monocotyledonous plants have floral parts in multiples of 3, not so the dicots.

Meadow Saffron has an interesting biology in that, at the time of flowering, the ovaries are underground and connected to the above ground stigma and style. The style is contained in a long, narrow perianth / corolla tube. The germinated pollen (on the stigma) has to grow 15 cm down to the ovaries. The flower is topped by the petals which also contain the stamens. Pollination, via various insects, occurs above ground and fertilization underground. In the spring the seed capsule comes up above ground on the end of a stalk along with large glossy green leaves. All parts of the plant are toxic to animals and historically this led to many colonies in damp meadows being deliberately destroyed. The corms of the plant are also the source of the drug colchicine which is used as a gout treatment.

Remember: Pollen germinates on the plant’s stigma to form a multicellular structure called a pollen tube. This grows down inside the style to reach the ovary, which will contain an egg. One nucleus from the pollen tube joins with the egg cell in fertilization. Another pollen tube nucleus joins with the non-egg nuclei and that eventually forms the endosperm (food store). THERE IS A FULL ARTICLE ON THIS IF YOU EXPLORE THE ARTICLES ALREADY PUBLISHED – PLANTS ARE CLEVER 2. Plant sex is far more interesting than most folks understand! Alternation of generations!!

Plants are clever 2 is our most read article … to my surprise!

http://www.nwhwildlife.org is the HOMEPAGE. Visit and scroll down for 120+ ad-free articles on: UK wildlife, orchids, Yellowstone NP and many insects.

2 thoughts on “Naked Ladies in Everleigh Ashes

    1. Thank you. Might have some disappointed punters accessing this article. Not seen many swifts this year, not martins. Good swallows around us.

      Like

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