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Last updated on April 18, 2014 at 10:08 EDT

Fuchsia

Fuchsia is a genus of flowering plants (mostly shrubs) which were identified by Charles Plumier in the late 17th century, and named after the German botanist Leonhart Fuchs (1501-1566). The English vernacular name Fuchsia is the same as the scientific name.

There are about 100-110 species of Fuchsia. The great majority are native to South America, however a few occur from north through Central America to Mexico, and also several on New Zealand and Tahiti. One species, Fuchsia magellanica, extends as far as the southern tip of South America on Tierra del Fuego in the cool temperate zone but for the most part is tropical or subtropical. Most fuchsias are shrubs from 0.2-4 m tall, but one New Zealand species, Kotukutuku (Fuchsia excorticata), is unusual in the genus in being a tree, growing up to 12-15 m tall.

Fuchsia leaves are opposite or in whorls of 3-5, simple lanceolate and usually have serrated margins (entire in some species), 1-25 cm long, and can be either deciduous or evergreen depending on the species. The flowers are very decorative pendulous ‘eardrop’ shape, borne in profusion throughout the summer and autumn, and all year in tropical species. They have four long, slender, sepals and four shorter, broader, petals; in many species the sepals are bright red and the petals purple (colors that attract the hummingbirds that pollinate them), but the colors can vary from white to dark red, purple-blue, and orange. A few have yellowish tones. The fruit is a small (5-25 mm) dark reddish green to red edible berry containing numerous very small seeds.

Cultivation

Fuchsias are popular garden shrubs, though only the hardiest species like Fuchsia magellanica can be grown outdoors in areas like the British Isles (where it has also become naturalized in Ireland and southwestern Britain), with many of the popular cultivars being greenhouse plants there.

The most common cultivars are hybrids, of which there are thousands, propagated by cuttings, since seeds will not breed true.

Fuchsia