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Crocus sativus

Crocus sativus (*)

Classification System: APG IV

Superregnum: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Cladus: Angiosperms
Cladus: Monocots
Ordo: Asparagales

Familia: Iridaceae
Subfamilia: Crocoideae
Tribus: Croceae
Genus: Crocus
Sectio: C. sect. Crocus
Series: C. ser. Crocus
Species: Crocus sativus

Crocus sativus L., Sp. Pl. 1: 36. 1753.

Crocus sativus var. officinalis L., Sp. Pl.: 36. 1753.
Safran officinarum Medik., Hist. & Commentat. Acad. Elect. Sci. Theod.-Palat. 6: 473. 1790.
Crocus officinalis (L.) Honck., Syn. Pl. Germ. 1: 273. 1792.
Crocus autumnalis Sm., Engl. Bot.: t. 343. 1796, nom. illeg.
Crocus setifolius Stokes, Bot. Mat. Med. 1: 104. 1812.
Geanthus autumnalis Raf., Specchio Sci. 1: 116. 1814.
Crocus pendulus Stokes, Bot. Comm. 1: 209. 1830.
Crocus sativus var. cashmerianus Royle, Ill. Bot. Himal. Mts. 1: t. 90, f. 1. 1834.
Crocus orsinii Parl., Fl. Ital. 3: 238. 1860.
Crocus sativus var. orsinii (Parl.) Maw, Gard. Chron., n.s., 11: 234. 1879.
Crocus sativus subsp. orsinii (Parl.) K.Richt., Pl. Eur. 1: 248. 1890.

Native distribution areas:

Widely cultivated sterile cultigen derived from Crocus cartwrightianus.

Continental: Europe
Regional: Middle Europe
Regional: Southwestern Europe
Regional: Southeastern Europe
Greece (cultigen), Italy.
Continental: Africa
Regional: Northern Africa
Continental: Asia-Temperate
Regional: Western Asia
Iran, Turkey
Continental: Asia-Tropical
Regional: Indian Subcontinent
Pakistan, West Himalaya.

References: Brummitt, R.K. 2001. TDWG – World Geographical Scheme for Recording Plant Distributions, 2nd Edition
Primary references

Linnaeus, C. 1753. Species Plantarum. Tomus I: 36. Reference page.

Additional references

Mathew, B.F. 1982. The Crocus. A revision of the genus Crocus (Iridacae). London: B.T. Batsford Ltd, 127 pp. + 96 plates. ISBN 0-7134-3390-6. Reference page.
Rukšāns, J. 2017. The World of Crocuses. 568 pp. The Latvian Academy of Sciences, Riga. ISBN 978-9934-19-125-1. Reference page.


Govaerts, R. et al. 2020. Crocus sativus in World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published on the internet. Accessed: 2020 Jan 18. Reference page.
USDA, ARS, Germplasm Resources Information Network. Crocus sativus in the Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN), U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service.

Vernacular names
Afrikaans: Saffraankrokus
Deutsch: Saffran-Krokus
español: Azafrán
suomi: Maustesahrami
Nordfriisk: Safraan
galego: Azafrán
magyar: Jóféle sáfrány
italiano: Zafferano vero
Nederlands: Saffraankrokus
polski: Szafran uprawny
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Šafran
ไทย: หญ้าฝรั่น
Türkçe: Safran

Crocus sativus, commonly known as saffron crocus, or autumn crocus,[2] is a species of flowering plant of the Crocus genus in the iris family Iridaceae. It is best known for producing the spice saffron from the filaments that grow inside the flower. The term "autumn crocus" is also used for species in the Colchicum genus, which strongly resemble crocuses. However, crocuses have 3 stamens and 3 styles, while colchicums have 6 stamens and 1 style, and belong to a different family, Colchicaceae. Colchicums are also toxic.[3]

This cormous autumn-flowering perennial plant species is unknown in the wild.[2] Human cultivation of saffron crocus and use of saffron have taken place for more than 3,500 years and spans different cultures, continents, and civilizations (see History of saffron). Crocus sativus is currently known to grow in the Mediterranean, East Asia, and Irano-Turanian Region.[4] Saffron is the triploid form of a species found in Eastern Greece, Crocus cartwrightianus;[5][6] it probably appeared first in Southern Greece on the Attic peninsula[7] or the island of Crete. An origin in Western or Central Asia, although often suspected, is not supported by botanical research.[8] Other sources suggested some genetic input from Crocus pallasii,[9] which has not been verified by chromosome[5] and genome[7] comparisons.


Crocus sativus has a corm, which holds leaves, bracts, bracteole, and the flowering stalk.[4] These are protected by the corm underground. C. sativus generally blooms with purple flowers in the autumn. The plant grows about 10 to 30 cm high.[10] C. sativus is a triploid with 24 chromosomes, which means it has three times the haploid number of chromosomes. This makes the plant sterile due to its inability to pair chromosomes during meiosis.[11]
Plant growing from a developed corm.

Crocus sativus is unknown in the wild, and its ancestor is unknown. The species Crocus cartwrightianus is the most probable ancestor,[12][9] but C. thomassi and C. pallasii are still being considered as potential predecessors.[13] Manual vegetative multiplication is necessary to produce offspring for this species as the plant itself is a triploid that is self-incompatible and male sterile, therefore rendering it incapable of sexual reproduction. This inability to reproduce on its own supports the hypothesis that C. sativus is a mutant descending from C. carthwrightianus as a result of selective breeding.

Corms of Crocus sativus should be planted 10 cm (4 in) apart and in a trough 10 cm (4 in) deep. The flower grows best in areas of full sun in well-drained soil with moderate levels of organic content.[14] The corms will multiply after each year, and will last 3–5 years.[15]

Saffron is considered to be the most valuable spice by weight.[4] Depending on the size of harvested stigmas, 50,000–75,000 Crocus sativus plants are needed to produce about 1 pound of saffron;[16] each flower only produces three stigmas. Stigmas should be harvested mid-morning when the flowers are fully opened.[15] The saffron crocus (Crocus sativus) should not be confused with "meadow" saffron or autumn crocus (Colchicum autumnale) which is poisonous.[17]

See also

Topics related to saffron:

History of saffron
Trade and use of saffron


"The Plant List: A Working List of All Plant Species". Retrieved 23 April 2015.
"Crocus sativus". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 23 April 2015.
A Handbook of Crocus and Colchicum for Gardeners, Bowles, E. A., D. Van Nostrand Company, Inc., 1952, page 154
Kafi, M.; Koocheki, A.; Rashed, M. H.; Nassiri, M., eds. (2006). Saffron (Crocus sativus) Production and Processing (1st ed.). Science Publishers. ISBN 978-1-57808-427-2.
Schmidt, Thomas; Heitkam, Tony; Liedtke, Susan; Schubert, Veit; Menzel, Gerhard (2019). "Adding color to a century-old enigma: multi-color chromosome identification unravels the autotriploid nature of saffron (Crocus sativus) as a hybrid of wild Crocus cartwrightianus cytotypes". New Phytologist. 222 (4): 1965–1980. doi:10.1111/nph.15715. ISSN 1469-8137. PMID 30690735.
Nemati, Zahra; Blattner, Frank R.; Kerndorff, Helmut; Erol, Osman; Harpke, Dörte (1 October 2018). "Phylogeny of the saffron-crocus species group, Crocus series Crocus (Iridaceae)". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 127: 891–897. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2018.06.036. ISSN 1055-7903. PMID 29936028.
Blattner, Frank R.; Kerndorff, Helmut; Gemicioglu, Almila; Harpke, Doerte; Nemati, Zahra (1 February 2019). "Saffron (Crocus sativus) is an autotriploid that evolved in Attica (Greece) from wild Crocus cartwrightianus". bioRxiv: 537688. doi:10.1101/537688.
Mathew, B. (1977). "Crocus sativus and its allies (Iridaceae)". Plant Systematics and Evolution. 128 (1–2): 89–103. doi:10.1007/BF00985174. JSTOR 23642209. S2CID 7577712.
Harpke, Dörte; Meng, Shuchun; Rutten, Twan; Kerndorff, Helmut; Blattner, Frank R. (2013). "Phylogeny of Crocus (Iridaceae) based on one chloroplast and two nuclear loci: Ancient hybridization and chromosome number evolution". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 66 (3): 617–627. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2012.10.007. PMID 23123733.
Mollazadeh, Hamid "Razi's Al-Hawi and saffron (Crocus sativus): a review". Iranian Journal of Basic Medical Sciences, Dec 2015.
Saxena, R. (2010), "Botany, taxonomy and cytology of Crocus sativus series", AYU, 31 (3): 374–81, doi:10.4103/0974-8520.77153, PMC 3221075, PMID 22131743
Rubio-Moraga, A; Castillo-Lopez, R; Gomez-Gomez, L; Ahrazem, O (23 September 2009). "Saffron is a Monomorphic Species as Revealed by RAPD, ISSR and Microsatellite Analyses". BMC Research Notes. 2 (189): 189. doi:10.1186/1756-0500-2-189. PMC 2758891. PMID 19772674.
Grilli Caiola, M. (2003). "Saffron Reproductive Biology". Acta Horticulturae. ISHS. 650 (650): 25–37. doi:10.17660/ActaHortic.2004.650.1. S2CID 89990377.
"Growing and Harvesting Saffron Crocus". White Flower Farm.
"Saffron Farming Information Guide". AgriFarming. 8 August 2015.
Hill, T (2004). The Contemporary Encyclopedia of Herbs and Spices: Seasonings for the Global Kitchen (1st ed.). Wiley. p. 273. ISBN 978-0-471-21423-6.
"Colchicum autumnale | meadow saffron/RHS Gardening".

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