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 (p. 14, tab. 14, Paris, 1703), gave a description of a species of fuchsia, the first known, under the name of Fuchsia triphylla, flore coccineo, and a somewhat conventional outline figure of the same plant was published at Amsterdam in 1757 by Burmann. In the Histoire des plantes médicinales of the South American traveller Feuillée (p. 64, pl. XLVII.), 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 Alton (fig.) (see J.D. Hooker, in Journal Linnean Soc., Botany, vol. x. p. 458, 1867), 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. fulgens, 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 globose-flowered 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.
Ripe seed is sown either in autumn or about February or March in light, rich, well-drained mould, and is thinly covered with sandy soil and watered. A temperature of 70° to 75° Fahr. has been found suitable for raising. The seedlings are pricked off into shallow pots or pans, and when 3 in. in height are transferred to 3-in. pots, and are then treated the same as plants from cuttings. Fuchsias may be grafted as readily as camellias, preferably by the splice or whip method, the apex of a young shoot being employed as a scion; but the easiest and most usual method of propagation is by cuttings. The most expeditious way to procure these is to put plants in heat in January, and to take their shoots when 3 in. in length. For summer flowering in England they are best made about the end of August, and should be selected from the shortest-jointed young wood. They root readily in a compost of loam and silver-sand if kept close and sprinkled for a short time. In from two to three weeks they may be put into 3-in. pots containing a compost of equal parts of rich loam, silver-sand and leaf-mould. They are subsequently moved from the frame or bed, first to a warm and shady, and then to a more airy part of the greenhouse. In January a little artificial heat may be given, to be gradually increased as the days lengthen. The side-shoots are generally pruned when they have made three or four joints, and for bushy plants the leader is stopped soon after the first potting. Care is taken to keep the plants as near the glass as possible, and shaded from bright sunshine, also to provide them plentifully with water, except at the time of shifting, when the roots should be tolerably dry. For the second potting a suitable soil is a mixture of well-rotted cow-dung or old hotbed mould with leaf-mould and sandy peat, and to promote drainage a little peat-moss may be placed immediately over the crocks in the lower part of the pot. Weak liquid manure greatly promotes the advance of the plants, and should be regularly supplied twice or thrice a week during the flowering season. After this, water is gradually withheld from them, and they may be placed in the open air to ripen their wood.
Among the more hardy or half-hardy plants for inside borders are varieties of the Chilean species, F. macrostemma (or F. magellanica), a shrub 6 to 12 ft. high with a scarlet calyx, such as F. m. globosa, F. m. gracilis; one of the most graceful and hardy of these, a hybrid F. riccartoni, was raised at Riccarton, near Edinburgh, in 1830. For inside culture may be mentioned F. boliviana (Bolivia), 2 to 4 ft. high, with rich crimson flowers with a trumpet-shaped tube; F. corymbiflora (Peru), 4 to 6 ft. high, with scarlet flowers nearly 2 in. long in long terminal clusters; F. fulgens (Mexico), 4 to 6 ft., with drooping apical clusters of scarlet flowers; F. microphylla (Central America), with small leaves and small scarlet funnel-shaped flowers, the petals deep red; F. procumbens (New Zealand), a pretty little creeper, the small flowers of which are succeeded by oval magenta-crimson berries which remain on for months; and F. splendens (Mexico), 6 ft. high, with very showy scarlet and green flowers. But these cannot compare in beauty or freedom of blossom with the numerous varieties raised by gardeners. The nectar of fuchsia flowers has been shown to contain nearly 78% of cane sugar, the remainder being fruit sugar. The berries of some fuchsias are subacid or sweet and edible. From certain species a dye is obtainable. The so-called "native fuchsias" of southern and eastern Australia are plants of the genus Correa, natural order Rutaceae.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)