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What Is a Tree Fuchsia?

C. Mitchell
C. Mitchell

A tree fuchsia is a tropical evergreen tree characterized by its bright pink flowers, which typically bloom each year from spring to late fall. Tree fuchsias are most commonly found in the islands of the Caribbean, but also grow natively in Central and South America, parts of Africa, and New Zealand. The trees are related to more common and prolific fuchsia shrubs, and the flowers resemble those of most other fuchsia species.

Quite a number of trees and shrubs can claim inclusion in the fuchsia family. The name “fuchsia” was originally applied to a flowering bush discovered in the Caribbean, and was named homage to the German botanist Leonard Fuchs. It has since been classified as a broad genus that includes hundreds of related plants. A tree fuchsia is any one of a number of trees and tall shrubs that bears some genetic resemblance to the original Caribbean find, known now as Fuchsia triphylla.

Woman with a flower
Woman with a flower

There are at least 12 known tree fuchsia species. They are spread throughout the world, but tend to occur most prolifically in the South American, Caribbean, and African tropics. Some have been found in the South Pacific as well, most notably on the islands of Tahiti and in New Zealand. All are hardwood with narrow, often split trunks. They are usually modest in size, rarely topping 50 feet (about 15 meters). Their leaves are dark green, and their flowers a deep, bright pink.

Tree fuchsia flowers can vary slightly by species, but are generally oblong shaped, and often feature a bright purple center orb. Seed pods are commonly attached to this orb, and can vary in color from deep purple to dark red. In most temperate climates, flowers bloom from the early spring through to late fall, enjoying a generally long blooming season that makes them popular with gardeners the world over. The trees have been known to bloom continuously in the tropics.

The plant has some perceived medicinal benefits, and the leaves are also used in certain African religious ceremonies. Most of the allure of the tree fuchsia relates to its looks, however. The vibrancy of the flowers is unusual, as is their longevity. Once they take root, they can live for decades.

Planting fuchsias can be difficult outside of their optimized zones. The trees are very sensitive to temperature shifts, and require a lot of soil consistency. Propagating fuchsia trees from seed or small seedlings often works well in warm coastal climates, but can be frustrating further inland. Growing the trees from fuchsia cuttings often works best outside of the fuchsia tree’s native growing area.

The trees’ worldwide popularity has lead to many efforts at professional cultivation and hybridization. Horticulturists often selectively breed fuchsia trees in order to capitalize on different qualities, such as bloom color or temperature hardiness. A hybrid tree fuchsia is often more expensive to breed and buy than a normal tree. The results are often optimized for certain growing conditions, but hybrid trees are often sterile, meaning they cannot reproduce.

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      Woman with a flower