Up to 80 species of the same genus are known. Most are found wild in the Balkans and Turkey, and also in the western Xinjiang region of China. Many species were introduced into Europe after the 18th and 19th centuries and many new varieties have been produced. They are now cultivated in many cities in China. Crocus has slender, young leaves and delicate, elegant flowers in white, purple and yellow, with a distinctive fragrance. Their flower season starts quite early and is among the first to bloom in spring, making them a rare and excellent ground cover flower. Some species are also valuable in Chinese medicine, with sedative, analgesic, and menstrual-relief effects.
According to legend, hundreds of years ago in the Alps there lived a hunter and his son and daughter. The father was so busy hunting that he often did not return home for a long time. However, his son and daughter got married when he was out hunting. When he found out, he was so sad that he burst into tears, and when the tears fell on the snow, beautiful flowers of various colours, including purple, red, yellow and white, blossomed. The people of the village then called the flower “Laignel’s Tears” (Laignel was the name of the hunter), which was later changed to “Crocus’ Flower” (Crocus was the name of the hunter’s son), the genus name of the Crocus which we are familiar with.
Another persuading story tells that a beautiful girl who was given precious jewellery by a king who loved money and ordered her to take it as a token to the palace for her marriage. The girl set out on her journey happily, but on her way she encountered a poor beggar who begged for money and she gave the tokens to the beggar. The king got so angry that he cut off her hands and threw her out of the palace. She later married merrily to a rich merchant who did not mind her handicap. One day a beggar came to her door in rags and asked for food, and she immediately ordered her servants to prepare a good meal for the beggar. When the rich merchant asked why she was so generous to the beggar, she told him that after she had been expelled from the palace, she had met a prophet who told her, “Give alms to the beggar and your hand will be restored.” Before she could say anything, her hands, which had long been deformed, were miraculously restored and a crown of Crocus, a sign of blessing, grew on top of her head. Both the rich merchant and the beggar were surprised to hear this, for the rich merchant was the same beggar who had begged from her on the road and had become rich thanks to the jewellery she had given him, and the beggar before her was her almost fiancé, the king.