Early History of the Fuchsia
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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.

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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. The following plants were recorded at Kew, F. lycioides in 1796; F. arborescens in 1824; F. microphylla in 1827 F. fulgens in 1830; F. corymbiflora in 1840 (know known as F. bolivians) and F. apetala, F. decussata, F. dependens and F. serratifolia in 1843 and 1844, the last four species attributable to Nursery Messrs. Veitch of Exeter. But it was not until about 1837, or soon after florists had acquired F. fulgens, that varieties of interest began to make their appearance.

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The numerous hybrid forms now existing are the result chiefly from the crossing of that or other long-flowered with globose-flowered plants. Fuchsia 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 double varieties was recorded as Duplex amd Multiplex bred by Storey in 1850 and introduced by Vietch in Exeter. The first fuchsia with a white corolla was produced in about 1855 by Mr Storey, possibly Galanthiflora Plena?.In the the nineteenth century there were several hybridisers working in the UK, the more prolific of them including Edward Banks, J Edmund Bland, William J. Epps, J. Harrison, Edward Henderson, James Lye, W. Miller, John Salter, George Smith, John Smith, W.H. Storey and William Youell. Elsewhere in Europe, in France, Laurent Boucharlat, Victor Lemoine and Joseph Rozain and in Austria J N Twerdy.Around the turn of the century Carl Bonstedt worked in Germany producing a lot of new Triphylla hydrids

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There are many fuchsias produced in this period which are still in common cultivation today. Lottie Hobby (1839), Corallina (1843), Chillerton Beauty (1847), Tom Thumb (1850), Tom West (1853), Rose of Castile (1855), Madame Cornelissen (1860), Rose of Denmark (1864), Brilliant (1865), Empress of Prussia (1868), Jayne Lye (1870), Beacon (1871), Sunray (1872), Charming (1877), Snowcap (1880), Mrs W Rundle (1877), Lyes Unique (1888), Countess of Aberdeen (1888), Ballet Girl (1894), Brutus (1897), Mary (1897), Voltaire (1897) and Graffe Witte (1899).

The hybridisation continued in the early 20th century, though it was interupted by the first and second world wars where much of the land and greenhouses were turned over to food production. In the 1950s and 60s, hybridisers in California focused on producing many new fuchsia including many large double trailing varieties which are still popular today.

There appears to be very little limit to the number of forms to be obtained by careful cultivation and selection. To hybridise, the flower as soon as it opens is emasculated, and it is then fertilized with pollen a different fuchsia flower, the berry allowed to develop and ripen, the seeds extracted and sown, and the resulting fuchsias will be a new fuchsia. Modern hybrisers are employing the science of genetics to improve the outcomes. A fuchsia with a yellow corolla is still something which nobody has really achieved.