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Bristol XXI International Congress on Sexual Plant Reproduction (Bristol, UK). 2nd - 6th August 2010


While the products of plant reproduction - seeds - provide most of the calories in our food, and flowers are used for aromas, not many flower parts are eaten. The world's most expensive spice, Saffron, is the dried stigma of a crocus. Its takes 400 hours of labour to collect the 200,000 stigmas for each kg of the spice. Saffron Crocus, as well as some of most popular horticultural Crocus varieties, are sterile with three chromosome sets, rather than the two (one from the mother and one from the father) in other plants and animals. Although these plants grow vigorously, the lack of sexual reproduction means the plants have a very narrow genetic base which is difficult to expand. Our public display will show how the three sets of chromosomes interact and fail to produce fertile pollen, discuss genetic diversity, and possible ways to make new Crocus varieties or species. We thank the EU CrocusBank project for support.