by Stephen Mifsud
   2 Mar 2024      ()
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Romulea columnae   (Lesser sand crocus)

Romulea columnae  (IRIDACEAE.) 
Images for this profile are taken from the Maltese Islands after year 2000.

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Profile Date Feb-2005 (taxon update: Feb-2005)
Citation for this page Mifsud, S. (2022). Romulea columnae - datasheet created on Feb-2005. Retrieved from on 02-Mar-2024

Nomenclature and Basic Information

Species name :

Romulea columnaeSebast. & Mauri
Published in Fl. Rom. 18 (1818)

Synonyms :
(basionym or principal syn.)

Trichonema columnae Rchb.
Full list of synonyms : [Euro+Med] [PlantList] [IPNI] [POWO] [Catalogue of Life] []

Plant Family :

Iridaceae Juss. (The Iris Family)
23 species from the Iridaceae family are recorded from the Maltese Islands.

English name(s) :

Lesser sand crocus, Small-flowered sand crocus

Maltese name(s) :

Żagħfran tal-blat ċar, Żagħfran tal-blat żgħir

Status for Malta :

Indigenous. Present on the Maltese islands before man

Frequency :

Very Common     Common    Frequent     Scarce     Rare    Very rare    Extinct

Growth form :

Raunkiaer lifeform [info]: GEOPHYTE ( bearing underground bulbs, rhizomes, stolons, etc. )
Germination [info]: Monocotyledon

Legal Protection :

Not legally protected till the last update of this website (2/Mar/2022)

Red List (1989) :

Not listed in the Red Data Book of the Maltese Islands

Flowering Time :

February – March

Colour of Flowers:

White or Lilac


Not particularly toxic

Name Derivation :

Romulea: A Genus named for Romulus, a legendary leader of the Romans and founder of Rome. (Roman origin ); 2 = Further Info: [1] [2].
columnae: It is the Latin name for column or resembling a column. (Latin origin ); 2 = Since there is no particular connection with the tiny plant of Romulea columnae, it is more likely that the name is dedicated in honor of Fibius Columna (Fabio Colonna 1567-1640) author of the first botanical book with copper-plate illustrations, published in Naples 1592.

Planting in rural areas :

Can be planted in rural areas according to ERA Guidelines

Remarks :

In Malta there are 5 taxa of Romulea recorded including one which is alleged to be an endemic. The Romulea species recorded in Malta are :
Romulea melitensis (endemic),
Romulea rollii,
Romulea bulbocodium,
Romulea ramiflora and
Romulea columnae

Description, Habitat and Distribution
Habitat in Europe: Data will be available in the next update of this website.
Preferred habitat in Malta: Footpaths, exposed disturbed rocky ground, low or unvegitated garigue, damp rock basins
Botanical Description: Basal leaves 2; cauline leaves 1-6 ,0.6-1 mm in diameter, fairly short, erect or appressed, or long and slender. Scape 1- to 3-flowered. Pedicels short. Flowers pale lilac to pale violet, with purple veins; throat yellow, occasionally almost white. Bract 0.6-1.3 cm, herbaceous, with a narrow scarious margin, tinged purple or spotted with reddish-brown. Bracteole almost entirely scarious. Perianth 0.9-1.9 cm; tube 2.5-5.5 mm; segments lanceolate or oblanceolate, acute. Anthers reaching about ½ way up the perianth. Stigmas below the top of the anthers. Capsule 0.5-1.1 cm, obovoid-triquetrous to subglobose-triquetrous. Fruiting scape up to 5 cm above ground.
Distributional range: Mediterranean region and W. Europe, northwards to S.W. England, mainly near the coast.

Distributional map in Europe
and the Mediterranean region (2018):
Occurrences in Europe.
(from Flora Europaea pre year 1993):
the Azores, the Balaeric Islands, Britain (excl. Northern Ireland and Channel islands), Corse, Crete, France (incl. Monaco and Channel Islands but excluding Corse), Greece, Spain (incl. Andorra but excl. the Balaerics), Italy (excl. Sicily and Sardignia), Portugal, Sardinia, Sicily and/or Malta, Turkey (European part)
Occurrences in Europe and the Mediterranean region.
(from Euro+Med Checklist, 2019)
  Country codes  
AE(G) Ag Az Bl Br Ca Co Cr Cy Ga Gr Hs IJ It Li LS Lu Ma Md Sa Si Tu(A E)

Links & Further literature (4 papers)

Google Web

Google Images

Google Scholar

Research Gate




Med Checklist

Cat. of Life



World Flora Online

Plants of the World Online

Vienna Virt. Herb.

RBGE Herbarium

KEW Herbarium




A review of Romulea Maratti (Iridaceae) in the Maltese Islands Stephen Mifsud  (2015)
Rediscovery and taxonomic analysis of Romulea melitensis (Iridaceae) from the Maltese islands Stephen Mifsud  (2021)
Assessment of Romulea variicolor for IUCN Redlist Stephen Mifsud  (2018)
Synopsis of Romulea (Fam. Iridaceae) on the Maltese Islands (Poster presentation for XV Optima Meeting) Stephen Mifsud  (2016)
Kindly Email if there are papers and publications about local studies or information about this species to be included in the list above.

Species Images (8 images)
   Romulea columnae   -   Image Code: RMLCL-0.
   Romulea columnae   -   Image Code: RMLCL-1.
   Romulea columnae   -   Image Code: RMLCL-2.
   Romulea columnae   -   Image Code: RMLCL-3.
   Romulea columnae   -   Image Code: RMLCL-4.
   Romulea columnae   -   Image Code: RMLCL-5.
   Romulea columnae   -   Image Code: RMLCL-6.
   Romulea columnae   -   Image Code: RMLCL-7.

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