Chilean blue crocus
Tecophilaea cyanocrocus

Tecophilaea cyanocrocus has scented, cobalt blue flowers with a white centre. It is native to central Chile, where it grows in the Andes mountain range, on dry, stony slopes, about 2,000-3,000 m above sea level. From around 1950, it was thought to be extinct in the wild. Kew and the Corporación Nacional Forestal (Chile’s national forest corporation), with support from the Alpine Garden Society, initiated a plan to reintroduce it to the wild.

Chilean blue crocus grows from a storage organ known as a corm. Plants were successfully cultivated at Kew, and different populations were sampled to test how much genetic diversity remained in the cultivated plants. These tests showed that, although the plants grown at Kew were genetically uniform, inclusion of plants from other collections increased the genetic variability considerably. However, in 2001, a thriving population of Tecophilaea cyanocrocus was discovered in the wild near Santiago, before the attempts at reintroduction had begun.

Despite its common name, Chilean blue crocus is not a true crocus at all, and instead belongs to the plant family Tecophilaeaceae.

Today, Chilean blue crocus is considered to be rare in the wild and to be vulnerable to land use changes. Make the unusual gift of adopting a Chilean blue crocus seed, and help safeguard this beautiful species.

Thanks to Richard Wilford for the photographs

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