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.
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.
Thanks to Richard Wilford for the photographs