Fuchias

The Genus Fuchsia belongs to the plant Family Onagraceae.

It contains over 100 species of shrubs and trees - mainly native to Central and South America, although there are a few species native to New Zealand and Tahiti.

The early 1700's first record of the plant is attributed to missionary and botanist Father Carole Plumier who discovered what is now called Fuchsia triphylla on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola (present day Haiti and the Dominican Republic). Father Plumier named the plant in honour of Leonhard Fuchs, a sixteenth Century botanist who had held the chair of medicine at Tubingen University from 1535 until his death in 1566.

Today, the Fuchsia species are identified in 12 groupings, many of which are rarely seen in Australia:

The thousands of showy hybrid plants with delicate and graceful blooms, that are grown world-wide today, are said to have been derived from perhaps two species - F. fulgens of Mexican origin and either F. coccinea from Southern Brazil or the somewhat similar F. magellanica from Southern Chile and Argentina.

Kew Gardens in England was to receive one of its first plants of Fuchsia coccinea from a Captain Firth in 1788 and Fuchsia triphylla, was sent for identification by Hendersons, a firm of nurserymen of St. John's Wood, London in 1882.

The natural habitat of most Fuchsias is the shaded understory of tropical and sub tropical forests, with the ideal growing temperatures of 16 degrees C (min) - 27 degrees C (max). One notable exception to this rule is F. magellanica which can be found growing at the very southern most part of South America in Terra del fuego. F. magellanica is grown as a hedge in parts of Ireland and Scotland and has naturalised and is also a good choice for a garden Fuchsia in Canberra as it will survive frosts.

Today, hybrid Fuchsias are often characterised as 'upright', 'bushy' 'trailing' and 'hardy'. The 'hardy' hybrids probably trace back to their F. magellanica ancestor and are more resilient to the cold and frosts.