The Truth about Saffron

Rodger Whitlock
Tue, 01 Nov 2005 10:00:07 PST
On  1 Nov 05 at 8:06, James Waddick wrote:

>  1. Is there more than one clone of saffron?

Just reasoning from general principles says yes, there are. 
Remember that saffron has been (is) grown as a crop across a 
wide swath of the earth's surface, from Spain and Britain in 
the west through to Kashmir in the east. I for one would be 
astonished if there weren't multiple clones in this broad 

Of course, much depends on just what you consider a "clone."
There's a fair chance that all these plants are descendants of
a single original seedling, but have varied during their
millenia of vegetative propagation. Lemme think... lessee...
<memory clanks like a rusty machine> Liberty Hyde Bailey
devised the word clone (he spelled it "clon"). In "Hortus" 
(1930, the original) he writes "Clon. A variety or group or 
variation propagated only by asexual or vegetative parts... 
Clon is a horticultural rather than a taxonomic term."

So there's room in that broad definition for sports and 
variations that arise in asexually propagated plants, as long 
as they are distinguished horticulturally.

N.B. that Bailey's ur-definition is not particularly technical 
and doesn't concern itself with details. It's a very broad 

>  2. Are there color forms of Saffron?

See answer to 1.
>  3. The plants sometimes sold by large commercial dealers as
> 'white flowered saffron' is actually _____________(fill in the
> blank)

On p. 60 of Brian Mathew's "The Crocus" (1982) we read 
(ndicating italicization by /.../):

"In recent years there has been some confusion over a fine 
white-flowered saffron Crocus cultivated and distributed under 
the name /C. cartwrightianus/ 'Albus'. The stock has originated 
from a collection made near Tripolis by the late O.E.P. Wyatt 
and is in fact a fairly typical /C. hadriaticus/ although it 
can now sometimes be found in literature and nurserymen's lists 
as the variety /chrysobelonicus/."

That's almost certainly your white saffron crocus.

>  I have my thoughts, but let's hear from these list experts.

Experts? Experts? No experts around here.

Rodger Whitlock
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Maritime Zone 8, a cool Mediterranean climate

on beautiful Vancouver Island

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