The stunning pale blue flowers of the Turkish Crocus baytopiorum make it one of the most distinctive Crocus species.
About this species
Turkey is home to a remarkable number of Crocus species and new ones are still being discovered.
Crocus baytopiorum was discovered in 1973 and was described by the Kew botanist and former editor of Curtis’s Botanical Magazine, Brian Mathew, who named it in honour of Professors Turhan and Asuman Baytop of Istanbul University.
Asuman Baytop first collected C. baytopiorum on the Turkish mountain of Honaz Dağ. It was initially thought to be restricted to this locality, but other sites in south-west Turkey have since been found.
Geography & Distribution
On Honaz Dağ, a mountain and national park near Denizli, and at other sites in south-west Turkey.
The sky blue flowers, with delicate, slightly darker veining, together with the narrow leaves that are only 1.5 mm wide, help to distinguish this species and make it easy to recognise. The flowers have a perianth tube (sepals and petals) that can reach 9 cm long, with the perianth segments up to 3 cm long. The style (female part) is divided into three yellow or orange branches and the seeds are elongated and red.
Crocus baytopiorum resembles four European spring flowering Crocus species, C. vernus, C. tommasinianus, C. etruscus and C. kosaninii, all in series Verni. But despite their similar appearance, recent molecular analysis of this genus concludes that C. baytopiorum should be placed in a series of its own, series Baytopi, characterised by the clear blue flowers, narrow leaves and the large, papery white bract that surrounds the perianth tube.
Crocus baytopiorum is cultivated as an ornamental.
The original collection by Baytop was made in February, when the plants were flowering, but in cultivation Crocus baytopiorum can flower in January or earlier. Appearing so early in the year, the flowers can be damaged by wind and rain. Also the perianth tube can be fairly long and thin and a shortage of sunny days can cause it to elongate further, with the result that the flower falls over.
An amateur grower in Scotland, named L. Bezzant, reports that some plants flower extremely early, sometimes in December, and that these blooms are very frail and short-lived whereas those that flower later are much more robust. To reduce the risk of the flowers collapsing, the corms (a short underground swollen stem) can be given a free root run by planting directly into open soil, in a light, well-ventilated cold frame that is covered during adverse weather conditions. Pot-grown plants can also be housed in a cold frame or an alpine house.
This species at Kew
Crocus baytopiorum can be seen in the Alpine House at Kew when in flower.
Spirit-preserved specimens of Crocus baytopiorum are held in Kew’s Herbarium, where they are made available to researchers, by appointment. The details of one of these specimens can be seen on-line in the Herbarium Catalogue.
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Curtis’s Botanical Magazine (Wiley-Blackwell)
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