After a long hot summer here in the Algarve the heavens finally opened last week, and amazingly the first burst of colour can already be spotted, quite easily, amongst the golden dry grass and leaf sodden grey ground.
A little splash of water is all the encouragement it takes for these first wildflowers to (while nobody is watching) spring forth, and start decorating the floor below our feet. It won't be long now til the first little green stubble starts to poke out, before eventually, nature grows out its full green winter beard, hopefully in time for Christmas.
But who are these early risers anyway you may ask? A question that is easily answered these days. A quick snap on the ‘Plantnet’ app (the facial recognition programme of the plant world) reveals that they are the ‘Colchicum Autumnale’ or ‘Autumn Crocus’, but are also known as 'Meadow Saffrons', or even, the slightly more risqué, 'Naked Ladies’.
They are called Naked Ladies because, as you can see, the flowers emerge from the ground long before they grow any foliage to cover themselves up. Unlike most of us - they bloom long before they even start to grow. However, grow they eventually do, and get quite.
Also, a word of warning. Even though they are called Meadow Saffrons, they are not the source of Saffron. Saffron comes from the ‘Crocus Sativus’, which is also, just to confuse things, sometimes called Autumn Crocus.
And you don't really want to confuse them. The Naked ladies are, some of you might not be surprised to find, beautiful - but also extremely dangerous. They are apparently quite toxic. So, if you are lucky enough to see them on your first trek this autumn (now that it's finally cool enough to do so), admire them - but don't pick them. A good rule for all beautiful things in general.