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Leicester's internationally acclaimed genetics research involved in project into saffron production
Date:3/4/2010

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"Many hundreds of generations ago two plants were crossed to produce varieties like saffron or Dutch Yellow crocuses. We found the parents of the Dutch Yellow a few years ago and proved it was of garden origin because it came from two species that don't occur together in the wild.

"In the case of the saffron that we eat, it looks as though its ancestors did occur together and it was just a spontaneous and very vigorous plant which early farmers found and decided to grow."

The Crocusbank project is now trying to find out more detail about the origins of saffron plants, with the hope of remaking new varieties of saffron by new crosses between wild plants. The project also aims to produce a gene bank to reflect the diversity of the plant, so that special and unique genetic characters will never be lost, whether from farmers changing the plants they grow or natural disasters.

Turning to the splendour of the University's Botanic Garden display of crocuses, Professor Heslop-Harrison added: "The ornamental crocus plants are also important in horticulture and make our lives very pleasant. We are looking at new hybrids that are vigorous and have many flowers, without being as hard to grow as wild species."

Director of the Botanic Garden, Dr Richard Gornall, added: "The display of Crocus tomasinianus at the Botanic Garden is an especially beautiful sight thousands of lilac-coloured flowers nestling under the Japanese Maples well worth a look! It illustrates nicely the role that Botanic Gardens play in both research and conservation".


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Contact: Professor Pat Heslop-Harrison
phh4@le.ac.uk
44-116-252-5079
University of Leicester
Source:Eurekalert  

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