Crocus is a genus of flowering plants in the iris family comprising 90 species of perennials growing from bulbo-tubers. Many are cultivated for their flowers appearing in autumn, winter, or spring. Crocuses are native to woodland, scrub, and meadows from sea level to alpine tundra in central and southern Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, on the islands of the Aegean, and across Central Asia to Xinjiang Province in western China. The word ‘crocus’ ultimately traces back to the Sanskrit kunkumam for ‘saffron.’ The English name is a learned 16th-century adoption from the Latin, but Old English already had croh ‘saffron.’ Cultivation and harvesting of crocus sativus (cover photo) for saffron was first documented in the Mediterranean, notably on the island of Crete.

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