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Sand Crocus

Romulea columnae

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Iridaceae (Iris)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
10 centimetres tall
Cliffs, grassland, rocky places, sea cliffs.

Purple, 6 petals
Tiny, pale purple, solitary, funnel-shaped flowers with yellow throats. Purple-veined. Flowers are very occasionally white. 3 stamens with bright yellow anthers. Flowers only open when sunny.
A seed capsule, up to 1cm across.
The inconspicuous leaves are wiry and grass-like. The leaves measure up to 10cm (4 inches) long and 2mm wide.
Other Names:
Column Onion, Columnar Onion, Lesser Sand Crocus, Small-flowered Sand Crocus.
Frequency (UK):
Rarely seen  

Other Information


Romulea columnae, also known as columnar onion or column onion, is a species of flowering plant in the lily family (Liliaceae). It is native to South Africa and is found in a variety of habitats, including grasslands, rocky slopes, and cliffs. The plant is known for its narrow, elongated leaves and small, orange or yellow flowers that bloom in the spring and summer months. It is a bulbous plant, meaning it has a bulb-like structure that stores food and nutrients. Romulea columnae is a small, low-growing plant that reaches a height of about 15 cm. It has a compact, upright growth habit and is often used in rock gardens or as a border plant. The plant is known for its attractive foliage and flowers, and is also used medicinally for its astringent and diuretic properties.


Sand Crocus, Romulea columnae, is a species of flowering plant that is native to the Mediterranean region. It is a member of the iris family, Iridaceae, and is known for its striking, bright yellow flowers that bloom in the spring.

This plant is commonly referred to as a crocus, although it is not related to the more commonly known crocus species that are members of the genus Crocus. The sand crocus is unique in its habitat, growing in sandy or gravelly soils in areas with a Mediterranean climate, such as coastal dunes or rocky hillsides.

One of the most distinctive features of the sand crocus is its long, slender leaves. They are typically blue-green in color and have a grass-like appearance. In the spring, the plant produces vibrant yellow flowers on tall, thin stems. The flowers are cup-shaped and have six petals that are arranged in a distinctive star-like pattern. They are also often marked with dark stripes or spots, which can vary in color and intensity depending on the individual plant.

The sand crocus is a hardy plant that is well-adapted to its Mediterranean environment. It is drought-tolerant and can survive in areas with low rainfall, making it an ideal choice for gardeners in arid climates. In addition to its ornamental value, the sand crocus is also valuable to local wildlife, providing an important source of nectar for pollinators such as bees and butterflies.

In cultivation, the sand crocus is easy to grow and care for. It prefers well-draining soil and full sun, and does not require frequent watering once established. It can be propagated by dividing the bulbs or by seed, and can be grown in rock gardens, as ground cover, or in pots.

The sand crocus is a beautiful and unique plant that is well-suited to the Mediterranean region. With its striking yellow flowers and adaptable nature, it is an excellent choice for gardeners and nature enthusiasts alike. So, if you live in an area with a similar climate, consider adding the sand crocus to your garden for a pop of bright yellow color in the spring.

In addition to its ornamental and ecological value, the sand crocus also has a rich history and cultural significance in the Mediterranean region. The plant has been used for centuries in traditional medicine, and its roots and bulbs have been used to treat a variety of ailments, including digestive problems and skin conditions.

The sand crocus was also considered to be a symbol of hope and renewal in ancient times. In Greek mythology, the goddess Demeter was said to have been cheered by the sight of the sand crocus as she searched for her daughter Persephone, who had been taken to the underworld. The sight of the yellow flowers emerging from the ground was seen as a sign of the return of spring and the renewal of life after the long, dark winter.

Today, the sand crocus is still valued for its beauty and cultural significance. It is often used in landscaping and gardening projects in the Mediterranean region, and is also cultivated for cut flowers and as a source of food for livestock.

In terms of conservation, the sand crocus is considered to be a species of least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). While it is not currently threatened with extinction, it is important to maintain its natural habitats and to protect it from habitat destruction and degradation.

The sand crocus is a unique and valuable species that is an important part of the natural and cultural heritage of the Mediterranean region. Whether grown in a garden, admired in the wild, or used for its medicinal properties, the sand crocus is sure to bring beauty and significance to any setting.

In addition to its ornamental and cultural importance, the sand crocus also has scientific significance. It is a member of the genus Romulea, which is a group of plants that are closely related to the iris family.

The genus Romulea is of particular interest to botanists and horticulturists, as it is known for its unique combination of morphological, ecological, and biogeographical characteristics. Species in the genus are found in a wide range of habitats, including coastal dunes, grasslands, and mountains, and they exhibit a diverse range of morphological adaptations to these environments.

The sand crocus is an important species for the study of the evolution and ecology of the genus Romulea. It is considered to be a representative of the coastal-dune species within the genus, and its unique adaptations to its habitat make it an ideal subject for research into the processes of ecological and evolutionary divergence.

In conclusion, the sand crocus is a fascinating species with a rich history and cultural significance, as well as scientific importance. Whether grown in a garden, admired in the wild, or studied in the laboratory, the sand crocus is sure to captivate and inspire anyone who encounters it.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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