by Jim Murrain
Crocus is a well known and much beloved member of the Iris family. There are dozens of species and hundreds of varieties in a range of colors and sizes. One of them, C. banaticus, was previously called Crocus iridiflorus, or the Iris Flowered Crocus. Unfortunately C. banaticus was proven to be the older name so we are stuck with it. Its popularity would be much greater if it were still C. iridiflorus.
The reason it was called Iris flowered is due to the differing size of the tepals. In all other Crocus they are the same size. Here the smaller inner tepals look more like standards and the larger outer tepals appear more like falls than in any other Crocus. Of course there aren't any style arms like in Iris, instead it has a much branched stigma.
While usually a pale lavender there are darker forms like the one above and also a beautiful white. I am at a loss to understand why I have not been able to grow a white flowered one as the others have been easy here in Kansas City. C. banaticus even self sows but never as much as I would like.
While it is a fall flowering Crocus the foliage does not emerge until spring. The leaves are sharply keeled and lack the silver stripe found on most Crocus. It hails from the Balkans and is perfectly adapted to a continental climate.
This Crocus is readily available from many flower bulb dealers and is a long lived and fun addition to the garden. Give it a try and you will be rewarded every fall with a bouquet of Iris Flowered Crocus.