Tecophilaea rediscovered

Jane McGary janemcgary@earthlink.net
Wed, 31 Mar 2004 09:13:40 PST
The March 2004 issue of "The Alpine Garden" (bulletin of the AGS) contains 
the following news item (I have edited Robert Rolfe's text a little):

"Tecophilaea cyanocrocus has been relocated in Chile, over 50 years since 
it was pronbounced extinct there. M. Teresa Eyzaguirre and Rosario Garcia 
de la Huerta, in 'Gayana Bot.' 59(2):73-77 (2002 [probably published in 
Santiago]) describe how, while conducting a routine botanical mapping 
survey in the spring of 2001, they encountered a large but very localised 
population of the Chilean Blue Crocus at just over 2000 metres, within 40 
kilometres of Santiago, inhabiting an area no more than 20 x 50 m. Several 
illustrations accompany the article, one of them showing the tecophilaea in 
spectacular abundance on a level, stony site, which it is reported to share 
with a sparse covering of various spiny and hummock-forming shrubs, along 
with Calandrinia affinis and Barneoudia major. The density of this stand is 
estimated at 30-50 corms per square metre, in clumps of 5-20; the colony is 
said to be somewhat aberrant, in that generally the blooms have an 
extensive white 'eye', approaching but not analogous with the stocks long 
cultivated under the varietal name leichtlinii. In just three examples, the 
flowers were pure white. The exact location is not revealed."

This note tells us something about T. cyanocrocus's habitat preference. 
Calandrinia affinis and Barneoudia major (the former similar to a deciduous 
Lewisia, and the latter to a small alpine Ranunculus) are "snowmelt" plants 
of the subalpine zone, growing quickly in spring and flowering while their 
soil is still very damp, then going dormant. They are often accompanied by 
an Olsynium (I don't know the species) very similar in appearance and 
habitat preference to North American O. douglasii. These very well drained 
sites dry out in the summer, but the stony soil probably preserves some 
trace of moisture well into the dry season, and stays fairly cool below the 
immediate surface layer.

Let us hope that now that botanists have found this site, somebody puts up 
a serious fence around it to keep out the cattle and goats!

Jane McGary
Northwestern Oregon, USA

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