Crocus sativus - What do I really have?

dkistner(8 FL)February 19, 2005

I ordered a bag full of Crocus sativus, which they billed as saffron crocus. The bag was labeled Crocus sativus. What's come up (now, in February) are three distinctly different little bulbs: a white crocus that has the three orange pistils (or stamens, I forget which is which), smaller and more erect than pictures I find of the cultivated saffron crocus; a pale purple crocus with yellow pistils; and a lemony-sunny yellow crocus with yellow pistils--by far most of the bulbs are the latter.

What do I have? I am assuming that only the white ones (I read somewhere there is an "Alba" variety of C. sativus that looks like what I have) can be harvested for saffron. Or maybe you know something I don't? I'm pretty irritated with my order, though, and wish I could remember which (big) seed company I ordered it from so I could complain. I got this for harvesting saffron!

If you know of a reliable source for saffron bulbs, please let me know. Oh, and will any of the above that I already have kill me?

Diane

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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

All I know is that the light purple ones are the type used for the saffron. I had originally bought some and was shipped a variety that had no aroma or taste when I picked the stamens. The crocus blossoms I originally had, were very hardy and bloomed in fall with multiple blooms, which is not common to the Sativus strain. I contacted the company (White Flower Fram) I bought them from and was told they had a mixup. The following fall, I was shipped another batch and these started to show green shoots the following spring, then the rabbits, or other rodents got hold of the greens and chewed them all to the soil level. Since then, I have not seen a single crocus emerge in the planted area and must assume that my $30 plantings were destroyed. I don't plan to try again, due to the way these grew for me, unless I build some kind of metal screened cage that covers the whole crocus bed and protects it from any chewing animal.
A couple of choices below, but most are sold out now, and will not come back into stock until the fall when they start shipping again.

http://www.bloomingbulb.com/XQ/ASP/ProductKey.492/bulbs.Saffron%20Crocus/flower.Sativus/QX/cartProductDetail.htm
White Flower Farm in CT carries them in the fall too.

Bulb Mart in Ohio is selling them in eBay right now too.. I have seen a price there of $8.99 for 10 bulbs. They show a dark purple/blue color in their photo, and I have even seen a few white ones. But in any event, the Sativus is the strain you want. Good luck..

Here is a link that might be useful: Blooming Bulb

    Bookmark   February 20, 2005 at 6:57PM
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thorspippi(z9/s14 CA Sacramento)

I bought 25 from blooming bulb last fall. They all put out greenery (which is still there!), but none put out a flower. I'm going to leave them there and see what they do this coming fall.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2005 at 4:26PM
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gardenpaws_VA(z7 NoVA)

If it's blooming now, it's probably one of the species lumped as "snow crocus" - sieberi, tommasianus, et al. I don't know if those are edible, or if edible, flavorful. C. sativus is a fall bloomer and I've never seen any of mine try to jump the season. Yes, the foliage winters over, at least for me in zone 7A.
Flowers are a medium violet blue (tho' an alba form is perfectly reasonable), and you'd not mistake it for any other crocus if you looked at the stigmas side by side. The 3 dark orange stigmas of saffron are about 3/4 inch long, and flop out of the bloom. In fact, "floppy" would be a pretty good tag for the whole plant!

Here is a link that might be useful: close-up photo of saffron crocus

    Bookmark   February 26, 2005 at 5:39PM
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dkistner(8 FL)

Okay, after some reading around, I found Hirt's Greenhouse and Flowers reviewed highly somewhere as a source for the "real" saffron crocus, so I ordered their Crocus sativus. I wasn't expecting to receive them until the fall, because their site said they'd ship them in mid-August, but I also told them about how disappointed I was with the last order of "Crocus sativus" I got and asked them to please not send them if they weren't the honest-to-goodness saffron crocus. Their picture looks like the one posted here, with the floppy pistils. (That kind of sounds like something insulting you might say to a guy, doesn't it? Gee.)

Anyway, they arrived today (Hirt's crocuses), and I guess I've got to plant them. Is that okay? Or should I put them in the fridge until August?

I'm glad y'all gave me a heads-up on the critters eating them, because I've got voles all over the place here. I've also got hardware cloth I could make cages with, but I may instead plant them in a container. I also read that they propagate so heavily that they need to be broken up every year. Gad, I can't manage that, so maybe I'll get a really big container and give them lots of room.

Another thing I read in my Internet travels is that the true saffron crocus does not close up at night like the rest of them do. Is that true? (Gardenpaws, what's your experience with yours?) All of the ones I ordered in the first batch that aren't the real thing close up at night.

Thanks for your help, people!

Diane

    Bookmark   February 26, 2005 at 8:33PM
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gardenpaws_VA(z7 NoVA)

Diane, I honestly don't remember whether or not my saffron crocus closes at night, but it wouldn't surprise me if it stayed open. Again, part of the sloppy/floppy thing.
I'd go ahead and plant the corms in a container, keep them in a sheltered spot or perhaps even see if I could push them a little with food and water to get some growth before summer dormancy. Any bulb experts, feel free to argue - I'm guessing, based on the fact that my plants keep their leaves (therefore keep making food) until late spring, when they die down and are invisible until late Sept - early Oct.

Robin

    Bookmark   February 26, 2005 at 11:32PM
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dkistner(8 FL)

Oh, I'm so glad you mentioned the dormancy. I wasn't thinking about that. Yep, today I'll get them in. I'm going to have to cannibalize another container I had ready for something else for the soil, but it's feeling urgent to me that I get this in dirt right away. (By the way, even though I know "dirt" is not the kosher term for "soil," I love using the word because "digging in the dirt" sounds so much more satisfying than "digging in the soil.")

Diane

    Bookmark   February 27, 2005 at 8:33AM
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franni(z5 IL)

Hello all! I planted crocus sattivus about 3 years ago (from the second - corrected - batch from White Flower farm). Since then I've seen leaves every spring but never a flower in the fall. Any ideas why that might be? They are planted in an area that gets lots of sun where other herbs grow during the summer.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2005 at 6:11PM
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BGPjj

What are these flowers? I never planted any other crocuses than saffron crocus and have lived here 24 years. The first set of corms bloomed like the majority of saffron flowers with the long droopy reddish stigmas. These bloom spring and more in fall. The leaves come after the flowers and seed pod wit reddish brown seeds sometimes follow after the leaves dry out.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2012 at 12:29PM
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KatyaKatya(6)

It absolutely looks like mine - saffron crocus. I have much fewer flowers - very little light here.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2012 at 1:11PM
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DanaFisher

Those look like regular crocuses. Saffron crocus is very distinct and has long, strap-like, red stigma, not the branching antler-like, yellow ones shown in the photo.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2013 at 4:55PM
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