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Toxic Plant Profile: Autumn Crocus

March 03, 1989|Clipboard researched by Susan Davis Greene, Dallas Jamison and Rick VanderKnyff / Los Angeles Times. Graphics by Doris Shields / Los Angeles Times

AUTUMN CROCUS (Colchicum autumnale):

The toxic properties of this flowering bulb--not a true crocus at all, but a lily--have been known since medieval times, and the plant has been used in folk remedies and in witches' potions. Today, the toxic alkaloid colchicine found in the plant is used to combat gout and in treating a kind of cancer, granulocytic leukemia. Concentrated in the bulb, the toxic element in the autumn crocus can cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, trembling, paralysis, coma and even death if enough is ingested.

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