Botanical Name: Crocus sativus
Species: C. sativus
*Crocus autumnalis Sm. nom. illeg.
*Crocus officinalis (L.) Honck.
*Crocus orsinii Parl.
*Crocus pendulus Stokes
*Crocus setifolius Stokes
*Geanthus autumnalis Raf.
*Safran officinarum Medik.
Common Names:Saffron, Saffron crocus, or Autumn crocus
Habitat: The original native place of saffron is not known.it probably appeared first in Southern Greece on the Attic peninsula or the island of Crete. An origin in Western or Central Asia, although often suspected, is not supported by botanical research. Other sources suggested some genetic input from Crocus pallasii, which has not been verified by chromosome and genome comparisons.
It is currently known to grow in the Mediterranean, East Asia, and Irano-Turanian Region. Saffron is the triploid form of a species found in Eastern Greece, Crocus cartwrightianus.
Saffron is a CORM growing to 0.1 m (0ft 4in) by 0.1 m (0ft 4in). The plant sprouts 5–11 white and non-photosynthetic leaves known as cataphylls. These membrane-like structures cover and protect 5 to 11 true leaves as they bud and develop on the crocus flower. The latter are thin, straight, and blade-like green foliage leaves, which are 1–3 mm (0.04–0.12 in), in diameter, which either expand after the flowers have opened (“hysteranthous”) or do so simultaneously with their blooming (“synanthous”). C. sativus cataphylls are suspected by some to manifest prior to blooming when the plant is irrigated relatively early in the growing season. Its floral axes, or flower-bearing structures, bear bracteoles, or specialised leaves, that sprout from the flower stems; the latter are known as pedicels. After aestivating in spring, the plant sends up its true leaves, each up to 40 cm (16 in) in length. Only in October, after most other flowering plants have released their seeds, do its brilliantly hued flowers develop; they range from a light pastel shade of lilac to a darker and more striated mauve. The flowers possess a sweet, honey-like fragrance. Upon flowering, the plants are 20–30 cm (8–12 in) in height and bear up to four flowers. A three-pronged style 25–30 mm (1.0–1.2 in) in length, emerges from each flower. Each prong terminates with a vivid crimson stigma, which are the distal end of a carpel.
It is in leaf from October to May, in flower in October. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Bees, butterflies.
Prefers a well-drained sandy or loamy soil that is free from clay. Prefers a sunny position. Grows well on calcareous soils and on hot sheltered stony banks. Plants are very frost hardy. They also thrive in areas with poor summers, though they usually fail to flower in such conditions. Plants produce less saffron when grown on rich soils. They do not flower very freely in Britain. Saffron has been cultivated for over 4,000 years for the edible dye obtained from the flower stigmas. It was at one time commercially grown in Britain and the town Saffron Walden obtained its name because of this. There is at least one named form. ‘Cashmirianus’ comes from Kashmir and has large high quality corms. It yields about 27 kilos of rich orange stigmas per hectare. When inhaled near to, the flowers have a delicate perfume. Unlike most members of this genus, the flowers do not close of a night time or in dull weather. The flowers are only produced after hot, dry summers. Plants tend to move considerably from their original planting place because of their means of vegetative reproduction, it is therefore wise not to grow different species in close proximity. Any planting out is best done in late spring or early summer. Plants take 4 – 5 years to come into flowering from seed. The plant is heat tolerant in zones 8 through 1. (Plant Hardiness Zones show how well plants withstand cold winter temperatures. Plant Heat Zones show when plants would start suffering from the heat. The Plant Heat Zone map is based on the number of “heat days” experienced in a given area where the temperature climbs to over 86 degrees F (30°C). At this temperature, many plants begin to suffer physiological damage. Heat Zones range from 1 (no heat days) to 12 (210 or more heat days). For example Heat Zone. 11-1 indicates that the plant is heat tolerant in zones 11 through 1.) For polyculture design as well as the above-ground architecture (form – tree, shrub etc. and size shown above) information on the habit and root pattern is also useful and given here if available. The plant growth habit is a runner spreading indefinitely by rhizomes or stolons. The root pattern is a corm swelling at the stem base.
The flower styles are commonly used as a flavouring and yellow colouring for various foods such as bread, soups, sauces, rice and puddings. They are an essential ingredient of many traditional dishes such as paella, bouillabaisse, risotto milanese and various other Italian dishes. The styles are extremely rich in riboflavin. Water soluble. Yields per plant are extremely low, about 4000 stigmas yield 25g of saffron. Saffron is the world’s most expensive spice, it takes 150,000 flowers and 400 hours work to produce 1 kilo of dried saffron. About 25 kilos of styles can be harvested from a hectare of the plant. Fortunately, only very small quantities of the herb are required to impart their colour and flavour to dishes. Because of the cost, saffron is frequently adulterated with cheaper substitutes such as marigold flowers and safflower. The flower styles are used as a tea substitute. Root – cooked. The corms are toxic to young animals so this report of edibility should be treated with some caution.
Saffron is a famous medicinal herb with a long history of effective use, though it is little used at present because cheaper and more effective herbs are available. The flower styles and stigmas are the parts used, but since these are very small and fiddly to harvest they are very expensive and consequently often adulterated by lesser products. The styles and stigmas are anodyne, antispasmodic, aphrodisiac, appetizer, carminative, diaphoretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, sedative and stimulant. They are used as a diaphoretic for children, to treat chronic haemorrhages in the uterus of adults, to induce menstruation, treat period pains and calm indigestion and colic. A dental analgesic is obtained from the stigmas. The styles are harvested in the autumn when the plant is in flower and are dried for later use, they do not store well and should be used within 12 months. This remedy should be used with caution, large doses can be narcotic and quantities of 10g or more can cause an abortion.
The yellow dye obtained from the stigmas has been used for many centuries to colour cloth. It is the favoured colouring for the cloth of Indian swamis who have renounced the material world. A blue or green dye is obtained from the petals.
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.