Timeless growth

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Timeless growth
Autumn crocus (Colchicum autumnale), illustration

Autumn crocus ( Colchicum autumnale ), illustration

Department : Vascular plants (tracheophyta)
Subdivision : Seed plants (Spermatophytina)
Class : Bedecktsamer (Magnoliopsida)
Order : Lily-like (Liliales)
Family : Timeless growth
Scientific name

The timeless plants (Colchicaceae) are a family in the order of the lily-like (Liliales) within the monocotyledons (monocotyledons). The 17 to 21 genera with around 200 to 225 species are distributed almost worldwide from the temperate areas to the tropics .


Appearance and leaves

They are perennial herbaceous plants . All taxa are geophytes ; The organs of persistence in the Colchicaceae are sprout tubers with a brown covering or, rarely, rhizomes , both without scaly bracts. They usually grow upright on their own or rarely climb ( Gloriosa ).

The rarely stalked, mostly sessile leaves are simple, with entire margins, parallel-veined, linear to lanceolate. They either form a basal rosette or are distributed alternately on the stem and usually spirally, rarely arranged in two lines.

Tribe Colchiceae: Crown of Fame ( Gloriosa superba )

Inflorescences and flowers

The flowers sit individually or in axillary or terminal, racemose , zymous or doldigen inflorescences (inflorescences). An inflorescence stem may be present or absent.

The hermaphrodite flowers are radial symmetry and threefold. The bracts are designed the same, therefore there are (2 × 3) six tepals . The bloom cladding sheets can be free or grown together. Nectar secretion takes place through nectaries at the lower end of the tepals or stamens (with Colchicum ). There are two circles, each with three fertile stamens , which are free from one another, but can be fused with bracts; they do not protrude beyond the bracts. Three (rarely four) carpels have become a top permanent ovary grown with many ovules . There are usually three free styles, rarely only one, but always three scars.

The flower formula is:

Tribus Anguillarieae: Wurmbea inusta
Tribus Burchardieae: Burchardia umbellata
Tribe Colchiceae: Androcymbium ciliolatum
Tribe Colchiceae: Colchicum speciosum
Tribus Colchiceae: Lantern Lily ( Sandersonia aurantiaca )
Tribus Uvularieae: habit and flowers of Disporum sessile
Tribus Uvularieae: Uvularia grandiflora

Fruits and seeds

The capsule fruits contain 30 to 60 seeds. The oil-containing seeds are wingless.

Chromosome numbers and ingredients

The chromosome numbers vary from 2n = 14 to 2n = 216, with the highly polyploid numbers being almost entirely restricted to Colchicum . The evolution of the chromosome numbers in the family was also investigated using a family tree, because there are already 112 species with published chromosome numbers for the Colchicaceae (Chacón et al., 2014).

With regard to the ingredients, alkaloids are particularly noteworthy. Many of the species are toxic because they often contain secondary metabolites such as the highly toxic colchicine .

Systematics and distribution

The surname Colchicaceae was published in 1805 by Augustin Pyramus de Candolle in Flore Française . He placed six genera in this family, three of which are still included, but of which today Erythronium belong to the Liliaceae , Tofieldia to the Tofieldiaceae and Veratrum to the Melanthiaceae . The type genus is Colchicum L. The botanical genus name Colchicum is derived from the ancient Colchis , an area on the east coast of the Black Sea .

For a long time all taxa were classified in the Liliaceae family. Franz Buxbaum (1925, 1936, 1937) left the taxa within the Liliaceae, but rearranged them into subfamilies and tribes. In 1982, Bertil Nordenstam reassembled some tribes. Using molecular genetic studies, Chase et al. 1993, 1995 and Rudall et al. 1997 some genera Burchardia , Tripladenia , Uvularia and Disporum added to the Colchicaceae. Since the Nordenstam 1998, 19 genera with about 225 species belong to the family. In this work he also placed tribes and genera in two subfamilies: in the subfamily of Wurmbeoideae, the taxa have tubers, parallel leaf blades, dry capsule fruits and colchicine alkaloids; sometimes network nerves and alkaloids without tropolone ring. The division into two subfamilies and five tribes according to Nordenstam 1982, 1998 and Dahlgren et al. 1985 could not be confirmed in studies by Annika Vinnersten & Gail Reeves 2003. The extent of the genus Colchicum including the genera Merendera , Bulbocodium and Androcymbium and the extent of the genus Gloriosa are controversial .

Synonyms for Colchicaceae DC. are: Bulbocodiaceae Salisb. , Burchardiaceae Takht. , Compsoaceae Horaninow , Merenderaceae Kral and Uvulariaceae A. Gray ex Kunth nom. cons.

Within the order of the Liliales , the Colchicaceae are most closely related to the Alstroemeriaceae , Luzuriagaceae, and Petermanniaceae ; these four families are closely related to the Melanthiaceae .

The distribution area extends worldwide from the temperate areas to the tropics . However, they are missing in South America . They belong to the floral kingdoms of the Holarctic , Paleotropic and Capensis . Main areas of distribution are: Europe, the region from the Mediterranean area to Central Asia and Northern India , and the summer rain areas of southern Africa.

The family can be divided into several tribes; recent studies, for example, follow a new systematic: the division into subfamilies cannot be maintained without forming several new subfamilies in order to obtain monophyletic taxa; but this does not make sense for a relatively small family. Therefore, according to Annika Vinnersten & John C. Manning 2007, it is now only divided into six tribes. There are in the family Colchicaceae (15 to 21) about 16 genera with about 200 to 225 species:

  • Tribus Anguillarieae D.Don (Syn .: Baeometreae): It contains only two genera in Africa and Australia:
    • Baeometra Salisb. ex Endl. : It contains only one type:
    • Wurmbea Thunb. (Syn: Anguillaria R.Br. nom. Illeg., Onixotis Raf. , Skima Raf. , Dipidax Lawson ex Salisb. , Neodregea C.H.Wright ): The approximately 50 species are distributed in tropical and southern Africa and in Australia.
  • Tribe Burchardieae JCManning & Vinn. : It contains only one genus:
    • Burchardia R.Br. : The five to six species are common in Australia.
  • Tribe Colchiceae Rchb. : It contains five or six genera and about 170 species in Eurasia and Africa :
    • Androcymbium Willd .: It contains including Erythrostictus Schltdl. about 55 to 90 species, for example:
    • Timeless ( Colchicum L .; including Merendera Ramond and Bulbocodium L. ). Bulbocodium includes only two species, including the spring light flower ( Colchicum bulbocodium Ker Gawl. , Syn. Bulbocodium vernum L. ). Colchicum contains 60 to 100 species and is probably only monophyletic if it includes the species of the genus Androcymbium .
    • Gloriosa L .: It includes Littonia Hook. about twelve species in the Old World.
    • Hexacyrtis Dinter : It contains only one species:
    • Ornithoglossum Salisb. : The eightor sospecies are distributed from Tanzania to South Africa.
    • Sandersonia Hook. : It contains only one type:
      • Lantern Lily ( Sandersonia aurantiaca Hook. ): It is native to South Africa.
  • Tribe Iphigenieae Hutch. : It contains two genera with about ten species in the Old World:
  • Tribus uvularieae Meisn. : It has a disjoint area in North America, Asia and the eastern Indonesian archipelago and contains only two genera:
    • Disporum Salisb. : The approximately 22 species are distributed in Asia from Indochina to Russia's Far East.
    • Uvularia L .: The five or so species are common in North America.


Very few species are used by humans. Colchicine , a poisonous ingredient found in many forms, is used in research and medicine.

Some species from the genera Colchicum , Gloriosa , Sandersonia and their varieties are used as ornamental plants .


  • Description of the family of Colchicaceae in APWebsite. (Section systematics)
  • Description of the Colchicaceae family at DELTA. (Section description)
  • Eugene Nasir: Flora of West Pakistan. 125. Colchicaceae. Stewart Herbarium, Rawalpindi 1979, (online). (Section description)
  • Leslie Watson: Colchicaceae. In: Western Australian Herbarium (Ed.): FloraBase. The Western Australian Flora. Department of Environment and Conservation 2008 (online).
  • Annika Vinnersten, John C. Manning: A new classification of Colchicaceae. In: Taxon. Volume 56, No. 1, 2007, pp. 163-169. (Abstract). (Section systematics)
  • Juliana Chacón, Susanne S. Renner: Assessing model sensitivity in ancestral area reconstruction using Lagrange: A case study using the Colchicaceae family. In: Journal of Biogeography , Volume 41, No. 7, 2014, pp. 1414-1427 (abstract). (Occurrence section)
  • Juliana Chacón, Natalie Cusimano, Susanne S. Renner: The evolution of Colchicaceae, with a focus on chromosome numbers. In: Systematic Botany Volume 39, No. 2, 2014, pp. 415-427. (Abstract). (Section chromosomes)

Individual evidence

  1. ^ A b Annika Vinnersten, Gail Reeves: Phylogenetic relationships within Colchicaceae. In: American Journal of Botany. Volume 90, No. 10, 2003, pp. 1455-1462, doi: 10.3732 / ajb.90.10.1455 .
  2. ^ A b Colchicaceae in the Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN), USDA , ARS , National Genetic Resources Program. National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland.
  3. Annika Vinnersten, John C. Manning: A new classification of Colchicaceae. In: Taxon. Volume 56, No. 1, 2007, pp. 163-169 (abstract). ( Memento of the original from December 6, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.ingentaconnect.com
  4. a b c d e Rafaël Govaerts (Ed.): Colchicaceae. In: World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (WCSP) - The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew . Retrieved June 29, 2018.

Web links

Commons : Colchicaceae  - Collection of images, videos and audio files