The Autumn Crocus

The article discusses the autumn crocus, also known as Colchicum autumnale, which belongs to the Colchicaceae family. There are about 100 species in this family, and the autumn crocus is the most well-known member. It blooms with light-violet flowers in late summer to autumn, adding a last touch of color to our meadows. Despite their name, they are often mistaken for crocuses (Crocus sp.), which belong to a different plant family, the iris family (Iridaceae).

The autumn crocus is a herbaceous and highly poisonous plant. It produces one to five flowers from its corm (a type of bulb-like storage organ). The flowers are generally larger, around 20 cm in length, compared to crocuses. One way to distinguish them is by counting the stamens: the autumn crocus has six stamens, while a crocus has only three.

Unlike crocuses, autumn crocuses produce leaves separately from their flowers. These leaves appear in early summer, always without flowers. However, there’s a potential danger of confusion with another plant, wild garlic (Allium ursinum), which is often collected and consumed. To avoid mistaking wild garlic for other plants like autumn crocuses, you can follow specific guidelines to differentiate them. Here’s an article that guides you through on how to differentiate wild garlic, Lily-of-the-valley, autumn crocus, Jack-in-the-pulpit or Solomon’s seal!


The article was displayed as a story in the Flora-Incognita app in autumn 2023, providing users with interesting information about plants, ecology, species identification, as well as tips and tricks for plant identification.

Phenology: Full Autumn

A glance into nature reveals ripe dogwood cherries lying on the ground, and autumn crocuses have faded away. A new phenological season begins: Full Autumn. Perhaps it will bring us a “Golden October” with many warm days, but weather is not an indicator of phenology. Phenology observes the annual developmental cycle of plants, and thus, Full Autumn is defined by the fruit ripening of the pedunculate oak, followed by late pear varieties and grapevines. The highlight is the foliage coloration of the horse chestnut. Full Autumn comes to an end when the leaves of the European beech and pedunculate oak change color and begin to fall. On average, Full Autumn lasts from September 17th to October 19th.


The pedunculate oak (Quercus robur) belongs to the beech family. It is widespread in Europe and tolerates both (short) waterlogging and dry periods. Consequently, it is found both in lowlands and at elevations of up to 100 meters above sea level. In April-May, the pedunculate oak blooms, and by then, its namesake feature becomes apparent: the flowers (and later the acorns) are borne on 4-6 cm long stalks. Acorns are an important food source for many bird and mammal species (jaybirds, squirrels).

Late Pear Varieties

Comparing apples and pears is rarely a good idea, but one thing can be said: pears (Pyrus communis) need more warmth than apples to unleash their full flavor. Early pear varieties must be consumed quickly and are not suitable for storage. The fruits ripening in autumn can be stored – depending on the variety – well into winter. Classic aromatic pear varieties include Conférence and Gellerts Butterbirne. Among the novelties, the productive variety “David” stands out with firm, sweet, juicy fruits, ripening from early to mid-October.


The grapevine (Vitis vinifera) is the Medicinal Plant of the Year 2023 because its fruits (grapes) are rich in secondary plant compounds. These are mainly concentrated in the seeds of the berries. However, they can also be found in the skin and leaves of red grapes. To determine if a grape is ready for harvest, check if all its berries are colored, the fruit stalks are woody, and the seeds inside the berries are brown, not cream-colored, and easily separate from the surrounding pulp. Grapes are best cut off completely from the vine with scissors and can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 14 days – provided spoiled berries are removed beforehand.

Horse Chestnut

There are several species within the horse chestnut genus, but phenologically interesting is the common horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum). By the way, the sweet chestnut, Castanea sativa, from which delicious chestnuts come, is not related to horse chestnuts! The horse chestnut originates from the mountainous regions of the Balkans and has been widely planted as a street tree in Central Europe since the 16th century. White-flowering horse chestnuts often suffer from infestation by the horse chestnut leaf miner. This leads to premature wilting and dropping of leaves in August to early September. If you want to document the foliage coloration of the horse chestnut as an indicator for phenology, please use healthy trees.

This article was displayed in the Flora-Incognita app as a story in autumn 2023. In the app, you can find exciting information about plants, ecology, species knowledge, as well as tips and tricks for plant identification. Why not take a look!

The Medicinal Plant of the Year 2023: The Grapevine

Sun-Loving Climbing Plant

In viticulture, several hundred grapevine varieties are cultivated. They all belong to Vitis vinifera, the grapevine. There are eight to ten thousand varieties of it, and what they all have in common is their tendency to seek support with tendrils and extend their roots deep into the soil to draw water from great depths. This adaptation makes them drought-resistant and sun-loving. With proper care, grapevines can live up to 100 years.

Health-Promoting Compounds

The fruits (grapes) are rich in secondary plant compounds, such as oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPC). These compounds are primarily concentrated in the cores of the berries, which should be considered when buying seedless grapes from the market. However, they are also found in the skin and leaves of red grapes. These substances primarily serve the plants by protecting them from UV radiation and parasites. In the human body, they exhibit antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties, and it has been demonstrated that OPC can inhibit the growth of colon cancer cells in certain doses. For more information on this topic, it is best to consult your trusted doctor.

But it’s not just the fruits that are significant: the plant sap that emerges in spring (referred to as grapevine sap) is a popular ingredient in cosmetics, and grape leaves also play a role in many (medicinal) kitchens. Red grape leaves support venous disorders, and grape leaves pickled in early summer are a vegetable rich in fiber, protein, as well as Vitamin E and K, folic acid, and minerals.

A New Badge for You!

If you find and identify a grapevine this year, you will receive a new badge for your profile: the Medicinal Plant of the Year 2023!

This article was featured as a story in the Flora-Incognita app in autumn 2023. In the app, you can find exciting information about plants, ecology, species knowledge, as well as tips and tricks for plant identification. Why not take a look!