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biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Crocus sativus (Saffron flower)

Life > eukaryotes > Archaeoplastida > Chloroplastida > Charophyta > Streptophytina > Plantae (land plants) > Tracheophyta (vascular plants) > Euphyllophyta > Lignophyta (woody plants) > Spermatophyta (seed plants) > Angiospermae (flowering plants) > Monocotyledons > Order: Asparagales > Family: Iridaceae

Native to southern Europe and southwestern Asia. The spice saffron is derived from the stigmas and styles of this flower. Flowers are cultivated on a massive scale (mainly in Spain) as it takes 150 000 flowers to produce 1 kg of dry spice. It is not cultivated in southern Africa. Not surprisingly, saffron is very expensive and is often adulterated with (or substituted by) safflower (False saffron) or Turmeric (Indian saffron). Saffron is used as a flavourant and reddish-coloured dye in e.g. cheeses, butter and confectionery. It is an ingredient in the Spanish dish paella and in Indian curry and rice dishes. Saffron has the highest known levels of vitamin B2 of any plant product.


  • van Wyk, B.-E. 2005. Food Plants of the World - Identification, Culinary Uses and Nutritional Value. Briza, Pretoria.