Though naturalized in several parts of Europe and Western Asia, the type form, or the Saffron of cultivation is not known to occur in a wild state…I group as varieties of Crocus sativus several Crocuses which previous writers deal with as separate species…Var. I. Orsinii. Of the wild forms, Crocus Orsinii of Parlatore, most nearly resembles the cultivated Saffron; indeed there is nothing to distinguish it from the type except that the pistil is shorter and the stigmata are more erect…
So wrote George Maw in his A Monograph of the Genus Crocus, published in London, 1886 (What is a Monograph?). Despite his assertion that this particular variety of Crocus sativus from Italy be recognized separately as Crocus sativus var. olsinii, modern taxonomic treatments of this species lump it in with all the rest, so it is simply Crocus sativus (you can read more about crocuses here: The Pleasure of Crocus from The New Zealand Garden Journal).
This image is a photograph I took yesterday of the illustration in the book that accompanies the quoted text. There are eighty more illustrations, each a hand-coloured lithographed plate from the personal drawings of the author. Frankly, the book is a bibliophile’s dream, made even moreso by the fact that our particular copy at UBC Botanical Garden contains this inscription:”To George Hornby Maw. From his affectionate father. Benthall, Kenley, Surrey. Oct 13, 1886.”
We were very fortunate to have this treasure donated to us a few years ago. Along with the time I spend on Botany Photo of the Day, my other duties include managing the garden’s online databases. I would dearly love to make this book available online as part of the information we provide, but it’s an expensive proposition. I’d appreciate hearing from you if you have suggestions of funding agencies that would support such a venture (in Canada).