After removing the stigma from a flower, specifically the Crocus flower, does it eventually grow back or does the plant die? The reason why I am asking is I am trying to find a way to mass produce saffron.

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  • $\begingroup$ Someone will find the pigment genes and engineer them into another crop like wheat or corn. that's the only solution. So if you want to do some crispr then that project would be worth a lot, but it's legally a minefield. saffron is a multi million dollar business and people with degrees in botany are trying to do the same as you, they have lots of tricks like molecular engineering and polyploidy by colchicine. actahort.org/books/650/650_31.htm $\endgroup$ – aliential Jan 14 at 3:25

Neither. (From personal experience growing a few saffron crocus in my garden.) Like other bulbs (or in the case of crocus, corms, to be technical), the saffron crocus has an annual life cycle. The bulb sends up leaves & flowers according to seasonal* cues.

The flowers will die whether or not you pick the stigmas. Indeed, the stigmas are usually the largest and most pickable just at the point when the flower is about to start senescing anyway. At that point the plant is about to go into winter dormancy anyway.

The plant does not die, but stays in a dormant state over the winter, then grows leaves in the spring. My experience, though, is that they will eventually deterioriate over several years unless the corms are lifted and divided.

The problem with mass production is not growing the plant: it grows readily in many areas of the world - but the labor-intensive harvesting needed. The stigmas need to be plucked individually, and carefully. Growing in a greenhouse would be possible, but uneconomical, since you need lots of plants to provide commercial quantities. (70,000 plants for 1 lb/0.45 kg of saffron, per Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saffron ) It's unlikely that you could speed up the annual growth/flowering cycle enough to matter.

*Saffron crocus (C. sativus) is a bit unusual in that it flowers in the fall rather than spring.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you very much for your answer! But couldn't we build a massive greenhouse in Arizona, provided we have enough water, plant the corms in trays of soil, and divide them along a very slow and long assembly line. The workers can sit comfortably along the narrow bottom-neck, listen to music and talk to each other while separating the saffron by hand? $\endgroup$ – Michael Lee Jan 12 at 22:23
  • $\begingroup$ @Michael Lee: I don't think (though I'm by no means an expert) that would be technically possible, since you couldn't speed up the annual cycle that much. It sure wouldn't be cost effective. I think you might have better luck genetically engineering bacteria to produce the specific chemicals you want. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Jan 13 at 2:55
  • $\begingroup$ You are correct in saying we cannot speed up the annual cycle, that I understand is six weeks, but I am frequently off on my numbers. Build a massive saffron green house in Arizona, if we can provide it with enough water, grown in trays, and passed along parallel conveyor belts, pick the stigma by hand with workers seated comfortably, and treated humanely, I know this will work, and those chemists and biologists, who think bacteria is going to get us out of this mess we are currently in, are currently out of their minds! $\endgroup$ – Michael Lee Jan 14 at 0:34
  • $\begingroup$ @Michael Lee: No, the annual cycle I meant is not six weeks (that's approximately the fall blooming time), it's a year. The corm is dormant in winter, sends up leaves in spring which nourish the plant. The leaves may die back in summer, as it enters a second dormant period. Environmental cues of some sort then trigger the fall bloom. You might be able to speed that up a bit, but IMHO not much. WRT workers, what's "humane" about sitting in a greenhouse all day, picking those thread-like saffron stigmas? I'd rather be out in the fresh air, at least. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Jan 14 at 4:16

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