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Tecophilaeaceae: Tecophilaea cyanocrocus

M.Elwes, 1886

Species

Tecophilaea cyanocrocus Leybold-Zephyra cyanocrocus (Leybold)

Original Distribution

Chile

Habitat

The species came from the surrounding of SantiagoMeléndez, R.

Description

Local name: Azulillo.Plant 14-15 cm high. Leaves 8-10 cm long, about 7 mm wide. Flowers hipogratiform, 6 perianth segments, 3.5 cm long, 10 mm wide, oblong, obovate, azure; tube 3 mm long. Stamens 6, 3 fertile, 1.8 mm long, Ovary sessile, tree chambered.. Fruit  a capsule tree valvate, Seed with a membranous testa, black.

Number of Specimens at Kew

4

Specimen Type (Y/N)

Y

Kew Herbcat Barcode Number

K000518087

Collector

M. Elwes

Date Collected

1886

Other Information

A Very impressive specimen including painting, and correspondance. The Chilean Blue Crocus, Tecophilaea cyanocrocus, was described by Frederich Leybold in 1862. Its distribution in Chile was localised, only being known from the range of hills surrounding Santiago, the Cordillera de Santiago, at about 3,000 m. The plant was recorded in Gartenflora (Regel, 1872) as originating from the Juan Fernandez archipelago, it is suspected that this misinformation was circulated to mislead competing collectors by two German nurserymen, Haage and Schmidt.
The plant was regarded as extinct in the wild from the 1950s onwards, attributed to over-collecting by bulb dealers, overgrazing by cattle ranchers and localised habitat change (per. comm. Alberto Bordeu, 1994). It is readily available from commercial dealers in the UK, Europe and North America. The material that was introduced into cultivation consisted of wild collected bulbs, which provided the original stock for the commercial trade. It has a reputation for being difficult to cultivate, as Farrer (1948) despaired: "No, no. Let salesmen say what they will, this glorious Gentian-blue Crocus from Chili is quite impossible of general cultivation in England". However, a number of private gardens established plantings from the original wild collections, these have persisted as self seeding and reproducing populations. A plan to re-introduce this species has been drafted by RBG Kew and CONAF, Chile, with the support of the Alpine Garden Society. This is dependent upon a review of cultivated stock to assess genetic variation within a species that has been managed as a garden ornamental. CONAF are undertaking a review of the species old range with the aim of confirming it's status in the wild and identifying potential re-introduction sites.

Information Sources

Especies natives Chilenas de Líquenes, Pteridófitas, cactáceas, bulbosas, crustáceos y peces de agues continentals agrupadas de acuerdo a su estado de conservación. Boletín del Museo Nacional de Historia Natural 47: 123-139. Muñoz Pizarro, C. (1971) Chile: plantas en extinción. (Editorial Universitaria, Santiago de Chile). Pp 69-70.Muñoz, P. (1977. Threatened and endangered species of plants in Chile. In Prance, G.T. & Elias, T.S. (eds.). Extinction is forever. New York Botanical Gardens, Bronx.Walter, K.S. and Gillett, H.J. (eds.) (1998). 1997 IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants. Compiled by the World Conservation Monitoring Centre IUCN – The World Conservation Union, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.