Crocus sativus

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Crocus sativus, commonly known as saffron crocus, is a species of flowering plant in the family Iridaceae. It is best known for producing the spice saffron from the filaments that grow inside the flower. The Crocus sativus species is a perennial, bulbous plant that is native to Southwest Asia, but it has been cultivated for thousands of years and is grown worldwide.

Description[edit | edit source]

The Crocus sativus plant grows to 20–30 cm (8–12 in) and bears up to four flowers. Each flower has three vivid crimson stigmas, which are the distal end of a carpel. The plant flowers in the autumn and comes up every year, so it is known as a perennial plant. The plant sprouts 5–11 white and non-photosynthetic leaves known as cataphylls, which cover and protect the crocus's 5 to 11 true leaves as they bud and develop.

Cultivation[edit | edit source]

Crocus sativus is a triploid that is "self-incompatible" and male sterile; it undergoes aberrant meiosis and is hence incapable of independent sexual reproduction—all propagation is by vegetative multiplication via manual "divide-and-set" of a starter clone. Crocus sativus thrives in the Mediterranean maquis, an ecotype superficially resembling the North American chaparral, and similar climates where hot and dry summer breezes sweep semi-arid lands. It can nonetheless survive cold winters, tolerating frosts as low as −10 °C (14 °F) and short periods of snow cover.

Uses[edit | edit source]

The most famous use of Crocus sativus is for the production of saffron. Saffron is a spice derived from the flower of Crocus sativus; each flower's three stigmas are collected and dried to be used mainly as a seasoning and colouring agent in food. Saffron has been used as a traditional medicine and is also used in perfumery and dyeing.

See also[edit | edit source]

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