Crocus – University of Copenhagen


Hybridization of Crocus

In order to elucidate the obscure origin of many existing Crocus species and cultivars around 500 crossings between species and cultivars have been performed, primarily within the C. biflorus - C. chrysanthus complex.

Hybrids and plant with wild origin are characterized cytological, supplied by molecular data obtained from sequencing and AFLP.

The parentage of Crocus sativus L., the saffron crocus

Saffron is a very valuable horticultural product used as a delicate flavouring food spice. It is produced from the stigmas of the sterile Crocus sativus, known only from cultivation. It is mainly grown in Spain, Italy, Iran and India. 

C. sativus is a facultative sterile triploid. The origin and closest relatives are unclear which makes genetic improvement of the crop through crossing difficult. Therefore, the answer to the parental origin of the saffron crocus is of high interest, as breeding could be performed on a diploid hybrid with same parentage. 

C. cartwrightianus is generally accepted as being the closest relative. However, results from scientific studies on the origin of C. sativus have not yet come to a conclusion regarding the parentage, and whether the crop species has an auto- or allopolyploid origin.