I opened the door to my decade-old Toyota and was about to slide in when my attention was diverted by the arresting beauty of crocuses, white and purple, hugging the back corner of my rose bed.
The flowers’ delicate petals rose defiantly above the dusting of snow that fell in the lower elevations of the Adirondack coast a week ago Sunday.
I marveled at their vibrant determination to bloom in a realm still icy despite Punxsutawney Phil’s predictions of an early spring.
Amy Ivy, executive director of the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Clinton County, was on vacation last week, so I could not call her to ask the why and how of crocuses.
So, it’s research, old and new school.
I started with the biggest dictionary on my desk, “Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary of the English Language Abridged” printed in 1964 by Rockville House Publishers Inc. New York.
For the entry, I found:
cro’cus, n. [L. crocus; Gr. Krokos, saffron, also the crocus, from its color.]
1. [C--] A genus of iridaceous herbaceous plants, consisting of many hardy species. They are dwarf herbs with fibrous-coated corms and grasslike leaves appearing after the flowers Crocus sativus is common saffron.
I was with Mr. Webster until I read the word “corms,” which I had to look up also.
corm. n. [L. cormus; Gr. kormos.] The trunk of a tree with the boughs lopped off.
1. In botany, a bulblike subterranean stem, differing from a bulb in being solid, and from a tuber, in its oval figure.
On page 386, the corm definition is accompanied by an illustration of Crocus sativus. How serendipitous!
With a handle on corm, I went back to crocus.
In the recesses of my mind, there is a link between crocus and viewing the cartoon “The Mighty Hercules” on Saturday-morning television in the 1960s.