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Crocus lore. The crocus illustrations I’ve selected are reproduced from plates that appeared in Curtis’s Botanical Magazine, the Crocus biflorus plate in in 1805, and the Crocus aerius plate in 1788.

The Greek word “krokos,” which meant “saffron,” is father to the modern word “crocus.” An orange-yellow dye and condiment, saffron is still derived from female flowering parts of Crocus sativa, a crocus species native to the eastern Mediterranean. In antiquity, it was used to dye royal robes, and was sometimes scattered in the paths of Roman emperors.

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It’s been estimated that 4,000 Crocus sativa plants yield an ounce of saffron, which explains why it was, and is, such a precious commodity. According to Wegman’s Market, they sell a tiny pinch—“not even enough to weigh”—for $9 to $14.


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