California fuchsia

A low-growing sturdy plant, now in bloom in many places around here. Observed yesterday in the Palo Alto Demonstration Garden, a small plot of city park land devoted to illustrating “Bay-friendly principles” of gardening.

(#1) Epilobium canum

The plant is commonly known as California fuchsia, a name that’s strictly speaking not subsective, since California fuschia is not in fact in the genus Fuchsia — but its genus, Epilobium, is closely related to Fuchsia, and you could argue that the common name fuchsia takes in a range of plants, not limited to the botanists’ Fuchsia., in which case California fuchsia would be a perfectly ordinary subsective compound, not a resembloid.

From Wikipedia on the plant:

Epilobium canum, also known as California fuchsia or Zauschneria, is a species of willowherb in the evening primrose family (Onagraceae) [to which the genus Fuchsia also belongs]. It is native to dry slopes and in chaparral of western North America, especially California. It is a perennial plant, notable for the profusion of bright scarlet flowers in late summer and autumn [that is to say, now].

The name reflects that in the past it used to be treated in a distinct genus Zauschneria, but modern studies have shown that it is best placed within the genus Epilobium. Other common names include California-fuchsia (from the resemblance of the flowers to those of fuchsias), hummingbird flower or hummingbird trumpet (the flowers are very attractive to hummingbirds), and firechalice.

The original genus name was in honor of Johann Baptista Josef Zauschner (1737–1799), a professor of medicine and botany in Prague.

The genus Fuchsia is far from uniform: it takes in about 110 species, mostly of shrubs or small trees (typically no more than 2 pr 3 ft high). The horticultural plants (like the one below) are hybrids of several species.

(#2) Garden fuchsia flowers

Some species don’t look much like these, but instead closely resemble California fuchsias — notably, Fuchsia triphylla, which has been extensively bred for an assortment of cultivars:

(#3) Honeysuckle fuchsia, firecracker fuchsia, etc.

The Lucie Stern Demonstration Garden. The Palo Alto city demonstration garden, at the Lucie Stern Community Center, adjacent to the Girl Scout House at 1120 Hopkins Ave. The garden is small, only about 20 ft square, and carefully labeled, with an on-line plant finder, but some of the labels have been removed (probably by children) and some plants (including several very striking ones now in bloom) seem not yet to have been labeled and are not identified on-line. A bench for refection in the middle of the garden plot:


The rationale for the garden, from its website:

What you do in your garden, from applying fertilizer to planting a lawn, affects the Bay. This garden demonstrates environmentally friendly landscaping using Bay-Friendly practices – a holistic approach that works in harmony with the San Francisco Bay Watershed.

Bay-Friendly Principles incorporate the fundamentals of water conservation, zero waste, greenhouse gas reduction, energy conservation and storm water runoff pollution prevention. These practices help the community and City achieve goals for sustainability.

One Response to “California fuchsia”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    I bought a perennial this spring that was labelled as a Fuchsia variety, upright rather than trailing, the flowers looking rather like the Fuchsia triphylla depicted in #3, maybe a bit more orange.. I had hopes for it, since its label said it would tolerate partial shade. Unfortunately something — I suspect a rabbit — ate most of it recently, and I don’t think it’s going to survive.

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