Mystery solved – biologists in Dresden explain the genetic origins of the saffron crocus

Last updated: 8 May, 2019

With a price tag of up to €30,000 per kilogram, saffron is the most expensive price in the world. The origin of the saffron crocus, Crocus sativa, have been shrouded in mystery and controversy lasting for nearly a century. Until now.


A team of researchers at TU Dresden, led by Thomas Schmidt, have uncovered the origin of the saffron crocus, potentially paving the way for breeding to make improvements to the flower and its sought-after spice.



The story is featured in the image on the front cover of the latest issue of New Phytologist. Find out more on the New Phyt blog.


Read the paper: Schmidt, T., Heitkam, T., Liedtke, S., Schubert, V. and Menzel, G. (2019) Adding color to a century‐old enigma: multi‐color chromosome identification unravels the autotriploid nature of saffron (Crocus sativus) as a hybrid of wild Crocus cartwrightianus cytotypes. New Phytologist 222: 1965-1980. doi: 10.1111/nph.15715


Read New Phytologist 222:4.


Mike Whitfield
Development Coordinator
The New Phytologist Trust