Xmera / Garden History / Plants: Introduction of the Fuchsia / F. corymbiflora, F. denticulata & F. apetala

Fuchsia corymbiflora & Fuchsia denticulata & F. apetala

In 1830 the Horticultural Society of London sent a gardener from their Chiswick gardens, Andrew Mathews (1801-1841), to collect for them in Chile and Peru. Mathews settled in Lima, where he acquired about fifty acres of land and learnt to grow plants in this different environment. When organising his early plant collecting expeditions into the interior Mathews was able to draw on the experience of Alexander Cruckshanks and to appeal to him for confirmation that the £6 per 1000 plants Thomas Drummond reckoned on in North America could not be matched in Peru because of the high costs, particularly of travel. Among the plants collected by Mathews were F. corymbiflora, F. denticulata and F. apetala. During an expedition to the cordilleras in the Amazonas region in 1834 he was so taken by the richness of the local flora that he settled in the regional capital of Chachapoyas, where he died.

Another Scottish doctor who transferred his interest to botany was William Jameson, who arrived in Peru as a ship's surgeon in 1821 and spent most of the next half century in South America. After a few years he settled at Quito in Ecuador, where he became professor of chemistry and botany. He prepared a synopsis of the flora of Ecudaor, which was partially printed towards the end of his life. He sent many plants and seeds to Britain, including Fuchsia corymbiflora. Many of his herbarium specimens were not identified by a precise location, which Richard Spruce explained in Notes of a Botanist on the Amazon & Andes 'was because [he] has had a drunken (and worse) wife hanging on him for forty years, who burns his dried plants, whenever she can get hold of them, so that he can keep no herbarium'.

F. corymbiflora [above left] was described in Curtis's Botanical Magazine (plate 4000) as the 'most splendid of all our known species of Fuchsia, of free growth, and a ready and constant flowerer, except in the winter months'.

F. denticulata [right] was described in Curtis's Botanical Magazine (plate 4174) as F. serratifolia. When a specimen grow from the material collected by William Lobb in Peru were exhibited at Chiswick by the Veitch nursery in 1845, it was much admired and awarded a silver gilt medal.

F. apetala [below left] was described in Curtis's Botanical Magazine (plate 4233) as F. macrantha. Although collected by Mathews, it was not introduced into English gardens until William Lobb sent seeds back to the Veitch nursery. Its brilliant colour and copious flowers attracted a lot of interest when it was exhibited by Veitch in 1846.