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Crocus sativus - L.
                 
Common Name Saffron
Family Iridaceae
USDA hardiness 5-9
Known Hazards The plant is poisonous[21]. The plant is perfectly safe in normal usage but 5 - 10 grams of saffron has been known to cause death[65].
Habitats Not known in a truly wild location[90].
Range S. Europe - Greece to W. Asia.
Edibility Rating  
Other Uses  
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating  
Care
Fully Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun

Summary

Crocus sativus Saffron


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Crocus sativus Saffron
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Physical Characteristics
 icon of manicon of flower
Crocus sativus is a CORM growing to 0.1 m (0ft 4in) by 0.1 m (0ft 4in).
It is hardy to zone (UK) 6 and is not frost tender. It is in leaf 5-Oct It is in flower in October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, butterflies.Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil.

Synonyms

Habitats
 Lawn; Cultivated Beds;
Edible Uses
Edible Parts: Root.
Edible Uses: Colouring;  Condiment;  Tea.

The flower styles are commonly used as a flavouring and yellow colouring for various foods such as bread, soups, sauces, rice and puddings[2, 4, 7, 14, 21, 27, 34, 183]. They are an essential ingredient of many traditional dishes such as paella, bouillabaisse, risotto milanese and various other Italian dishes[244]. The styles are extremely rich in riboflavin[137]. Water soluble[171]. Yields per plant are extremely low, about 4000 stigmas yield 25g of saffron[89]. Saffron is the world's most expensive spice, it takes 150,000 flowers and 400 hours work to produce 1 kilo of dried saffron[238]. About 25 kilos of styles can be harvested from a hectare of the plant[4]. Fortunately, only very small quantities of the herb are required to impart their colour and flavour to dishes[244]. Because of the cost, saffron is frequently adulterated with cheaper substitutes such as marigold flowers and safflower[244]. The flower styles are used as a tea substitute[183]. Root - cooked[183]. The corms are toxic to young animals[218] so this report of edibility should be treated with some caution[K].
Medicinal Uses


Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Abortifacient;  Anodyne;  Antispasmodic;  Aphrodisiac;  Appetizer;  Carminative;  Diaphoretic;  Emmenagogue;  
Expectorant;  Narcotic;  Sedative;  Stimulant.

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[4, 7, 254]. 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[7]. The styles and stigmas are anodyne, antispasmodic, aphrodisiac, appetizer, carminative, diaphoretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, sedative and stimulant[4, 7, 21, 174, 176, 218]. 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[4, 254]. A dental analgesic is obtained from the stigmas[7]. The styles are harvested in the autumn when the plant is in flower and are dried for later use[4], they do not store well and should be used within 12 months[238]. This remedy should be used with caution[21], large doses can be narcotic[240] and quantities of 10g or more can cause an abortion[218].
Other Uses
Dye.

The yellow dye obtained from the stigmas has been used for many centuries to colour cloth[4, 7, 14, 21]. 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[168].
Cultivation details
Prefers a well-drained sandy or loamy soil that is free from clay[137]. Prefers a sunny position[238]. Grows well on calcareous soils[27] and on hot sheltered stony banks[42]. Plants are very frost hardy[137]. They also thrive in areas with poor summers, though they usually fail to flower in such conditions[238]. Plants produce less saffron when grown on rich soils[137]. They do not flower very freely in Britain[90]. Saffron has been cultivated for over 4,000 years for the edible dye obtained from the flower stigmas[1]. 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[183]. When inhaled near to, the flowers have a delicate perfume[245]. Unlike most members of this genus, the flowers do not close of a night time or in dull weather[245]. The flowers are only produced after hot, dry summers[245]. 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[1]. Any planting out is best done in late spring or early summer[245]. Plants take 4 - 5 years to come into flowering from seed.
Propagation
Seed - according to some reports this species is a sterile triploid and so does not produce fertile seed[90, 238]. However, if seed is obtained then it is best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame[1]. Stored seed can be sown in the spring in a cold frame[1]. Germination can take 1 - 6 months at 18°c[164]. Unless the seed has been sown too thickly, do not transplant the seedlings in their first year of growth, but give them regular liquid feeds to make sure they do not become deficient. Divide the small bulbs once the plants have died down, planting 2 - 3 bulbs per 8cm pot. Grow them on for another 2 years in a greenhouse or frame and plant them out into their permanent positions when dormant in late summer[K]. It takes 3 years for plants to flower from seed[244]. Division of the clumps in late summer after the plant has died down[1, 4, 14]. The bulbs can be planted out direct into their permanent positions.
Other Names
Found In
Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :
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Expert comment
 
Author
L.
Botanical References
200
Links / References
For a list of references used on this page please go here
Readers comment
 
Elizabeth H.
ryan meissel Thu Nov 8 2007
what are the different types, the future uses, growing conditions. of saffron
Elizabeth H.
brian hayes Sun Dec 31 2006
I would like to grow Saffron - on a verly small scale. Where can I obtain seed or a corn?
Elizabeth H.
Ken Fern, Plants for a Future Tue Jan 2 2007
This plant is quite widely available in Britain, with about 20 Nurseries offering it. For details of these visit The Plant Finder at http://www.rhs.org.uk/RHSPlantFinder/plantfinder.asp.
Elizabeth H.
J Crocker Fri Jan 5 2007
Would this plant grow in the tropics at altitude? In particular the Venezuelan Andes which have two seasons, hot(ish) and dry and hot(ish) and wet? Many European vegetables and flowers, roses and alstroemeria in particular are very successfully grown there; and labour is cheap.
Elizabeth H.
Ken Fern, Plants for a Future Sun Jan 21 2007
To be honest, I have no idea if this plant would succeed in a mountainous area in the Tropics. You mention that European roses grow there very successfully - are any of the vegetables you mentioned perennials, or are they all annuals? My feeling is that, if various other European perennial plants can succeed there, then there is no reason why Crocus sativus shouldn't also. If I was to try it, I would plant it a month or so before the wet season began, hoping it would grow during the wet season (as it does in southern Europe) and then go dormant in the dry season. It should flower towards the end of the dry season.
Elizabeth H.
Thu Mar 8 2007
what is it name in arabic?
Elizabeth H.
Ken Fern, Plants for a Future Sat Apr 14 2007
The Arabic name for this plant is Kurkum, the Iranian name is Zaffran.
Elizabeth H.
Jamie Frankland Thu Mar 22 2007
can you grow the crocus sativus from bulbs rather than seeds. If so how long will they take to flower
Elizabeth H.
Ken Fern, Plants for a Future Tue Apr 24 2007
Some reports say that true Crocus sativus does not produce fertile seed because it is a sterile triploid. However, if you do get hold of seed that you feel is genuine Crocus sativus then it usually takes a minimum of 3 years to produce a flowering plant.
Elizabeth H.
Ken Fern, Plants for a Future Sun Jan 21 2007
To be honest, I have no idea if this plant would succeed in such a situation. You mention that European roses grow there very successfully - are any of the vegetables you mentioned perennials, or are they all annuals? My feeling is that, if various other European perennial plants can succeed there, then there is no reason why Crocus sativus shouldn't also. If I was to try it, I would plant it a month or so before the wet season began, hoping it would grow during the wet season (as it does in southern Europe) and then go dormant in the dry season. It should flower towards the end of the dry season.
Elizabeth H.
kaday san Sun Jun 24 2007
How many flower grows out of one bulb?? How much stigmas are produced from one flower??
Elizabeth H.
Hkumar Tue Dec 25 2007
How does saffron do in high altitude monsoon climates (plateaus of southern I ndia)?
Elizabeth H.
ANDREW LEVER Fri Jan 30 2009
recent studies have suggested that saffron is affective at relieving stress induced depression or mild to modern depression. is it safe to take saffron tables on a day to day basis or eat saffron everyday in your food?
Elizabeth H.
john smith Thu Mar 12 2009
the saffron is used in lots of different recipies as well
Elizabeth H.
M. J. HUMBAL Thu Dec 3 2009
Please send me a photograph of Crocus Sativus Seeds.(Saffron Seeds)
Mary W.
Mar 15 2013 12:00AM
I grow saffron crocus in the UK very successfully in troughs which stand on bricks for effective drainage.
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Subject : Crocus sativus  

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