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History of Fuchsias

History of Fuchsias

FUCHSIA, so named by Plumier in honour of the botanist Leonhard Fuchs, a genus of plants of the natural order Onagraceae, characterized by entire, usually opposite leaves, pendent flowers, a funnel-shaped, brightly coloured, quadripartite, deciduous calyx, 4 petals, alternating with the calycine segments, 8, rarely 10, exserted stamens, a long filiform style, an inferior ovary, and fruit, a fleshy ovoid many-seeded berry.

All the members of the genus, with the exception of the New Zealand species, F. excorticata, F. Colensoi and F. procumbens, are natives of Central and South America - occurring in the interior of forests or in damp and shady mountainous situations. The various species differ not a little in size as well as in other characters; some, as F. verrucosa, being dwarf shrubs; others, as F. arborescens and F. apetala, attaining a height of 12 to 16 ft., and having stems several inches in diameter. Plumier, in his Nova plantarum Americanarum genera, gave a description of a species of fuchsia, the first known, under the name of Fuchsia triphylla, (lore coccineo, and a somewhat conventional outline figure of the same plant was published at Amsterdam in 1757 by Burmann. In the Histoire des plantes medicinales of the South American traveller Feuillee, written in 1709-1711, and published by him with his Journal, Paris, 1725, the name Thilco is applied to a species of fuchsia from Chile, which is described, though not evidently so figured, as having a pentamerous calyx. The F. coccinea of Aiton, the first species of fuchsia cultivated in England, where it was long confined to the greenhouse, was brought from South America by Captain Firth in 1788 and placed in Kew Gardens. Of this species Mr Lee, a nurseryman at Hammersmith, soon afterwards obtained an example, and procured from it by means of cuttings several hundred plants, which he sold at a guinea each. In 1823 F. macrostemma and F. gracilis, and during the next two or three years several other species, were introduced into England; but it was not until about 1837, or soon after florists had acquired F. julgens, that varieties of interest began to make their appearance.




The numerous hybrid forms now existing are the result chiefly of the intercrossing of that or other long-flowered with globoseflowered plants. F. Venus-victrix, raised by Mr Gulliver, gardener to the Rev. S. Marriott of Horsemonden, Kent, and sold in 1822 to Messrs Cripps, was the earliest white-sepalled fuchsia.

The first fuchsia with a white corolla was produced about 1853 by Mr Storey. In some varieties the blossoms are variegated, and in others they are double. There appears to be very little limit to the number of forms to be obtained by careful cultivation and selection. To hybridize, the flower as soon as it opens is emasculated, and it is then fertilized with pollen from some different flower.

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