British horticulturalists to protect saffron crocus

Garden and greenhouse experts in the UK are hoping to protect the future of a valuable plant by creating a seed bank.

The Crocusbank project is a European Union funded initiative and is aimed at maintaining and boosting the diversity of the saffron crocus, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) reported.

Used to create a valuable spice, the plant is grown commercially in Europe, Iran and Kashmir, but stocks tend to be clones and are open to destruction by disease and flooding.

Leicester University geneticists are lending a hand to the scheme and hope to track down smaller growers who may have heirloom or rare strains.

The plan is to protect these by placing them in a seed bank that will keep the variant alive if the original crop is afflicted by disease or a flood.

Scientists working as part of the project are also hoping to rehybridise the saffron crocus from its two original wild ancestors.

In other news, the RHS revealed that English Heritage has awarded the gardens at Kelmarsh Hall in Northamptonshire Grade II listed status.