Family: Iridaceae.

Upon distillation with water in a current of carbon dioxide, R. Kayser1) obtained from saffron, the stigmata of Crocus sativus, L. (family Iridaceae), a small amount of a limpid oil which possessed a faintly yellow color and an intense saffron odor. It absorbed oxygen from the air very readily, becoming viscid and brownish in color. Elementary analysis yielded figures corresponding with the terpene formula C10H16.

The same oil resulted when the aqueous solution of the bitter principle of saffron, picrocrocin, was heated. Kayser assumes that in this case the picrocrocin is hydrolyzed to crocose and saffron terpene.

C38H66O17 + H2O = 3C6H12O6+2C10 H0

Picrocrocin Water Crocose Terpene

According to A. Hilger2), scarcely any volatile oil is obtained when saffron is distilled with water vapor. Only after the addition of sulphuric acid is such an oil obtained. The pigment of saffron is thereby decomposed into glucose and volatile oil. The latter consists of terpene and a substance C10H18O. In the low boiling fractions pinene and cineol were found.