colchicine alkaloids
Flower Color:
  • flower color
  • flower color
  • flower color
mountains, meadows

Time of Greatest Risk


Geographical Distribution

Meadow saffron distribution - United States

Meadow Saffron

Colchicum autumnale

Crocus, Autumn Crocus, Naked Ladies, Son-before-the-father, Naked Boys
6/ 10
Meadow saffron (Colchicum autumnale) is a small
herbaceous perennial plant which typically flowers in the autumn after leaves have disappeared. It produces showy pink, purple to white flowers in groups of 1 to 6 from an underground bulb. In the spring, leaves with fruit emerge and remain through July.

Toxic components
All parts of C. autumnale are toxic to horses, especially the bulb and seeds. The primary toxin is colchicine, a cytotoxic alkaloid that is able to inhibit microtubule formation. The other toxins present, which are closely related to colchicine, include: desacetylmethylcolchicine, desacetylthiocolchicine, colchicoside, demethyl desacetylcolchicine.

Consumption of 0.1% of the horse's body weight in leaves can be fatal to an average sized adult horse. C. autumnale is toxic in fresh or dry form, and horses can sometimes accidentally ingest the plant in its dried form while eating hay. Toxic manifestations appear within 2 to 12 hours following ingestion.