1996 32¢ Crocus
Winter Garden Flowers
Issue Date: January 19, 1996
City: Kennett Square, PA
Printed By: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Printing Method: Lithographed and engraved
Perforations: 10.9 vertical
Native to Spain, North Africa, and Mediterranean regions, the crocus has been used for centuries. A scroll from 1552 B.C. was found listing the medicinal uses of crocus, and a jug decorated with crocuses and dating back to 1500 B.C. was uncovered in Crete.
A popular garden flower, the crocus is the subject of many stories about its origin. According to Greek mythology, Mercury created the flower from Crocus, Europa’s son, whom Mercury accidentally killed. Another legend tells of the youth Crocus who was deeply in love with Smilax. Rejected by Smilax, Crocus begged the gods to help him. Taking pity on him, the gods changed him into a lovely flower.
Cultivated crocus are the source of the valuable herb saffron. Even today, the price of saffron is more than $4.50 for one fortieth of an ounce, which is a little less than $3000 for a pound! However, it takes over 4,000 crocus blossoms to make an ounce of saffron. At one time, dye made from the stigma was also quite valuable. Symbolizing wealth, the golden cloth was worn by aristocrats and noblemen. During his reign however, King Henry VIII outlawed sheets made from the golden cloth. His reasoning: white sheets were washed more often, making them more sanitary.