A thank you to Hampshire, England’s “Souren” for sharing this photograph via the UBC Botanical Garden Forums. These photographs were taken in September of 2006, in the Kharkiv University Botanical Garden (Ukraine). Much appreciated!
The alkaloid colchicine was first derived from plants in the genus Colchicum, hence the name. In addition to the medicinal uses outlined in the link, colchicine is extremely important in plant breeding research. If applied properly, a colchicine treatment can lead to a doubling of chromosomes in (half of the) gametes, resulting in offspring that are polyploid, or plants that have more than two similar sets of chromosomes.
Polyploidy is important for plant breeding in two respects. First of all, polyploids tend to be more robust than the diploid progenitors. As noted in the Wikipedia entry on polyploidy, many important crops were (unintentionally) bred to be polyploid: apple, banana, durum, maize, cotton, potato, tobacco, strawberry, sugar cane, etc. Compare wild strawberries to domesticated varieties, and you’ll understand what’s meant by more robust! Colchicine, by helping to induce polyploidy, can help create new ornamental or food varieties of plants. A second use of colchicine in plant breeding work is to overcome hybrid sterility, as is done with triticale.