The presence of fuchsias among the flora of New Zealand was known from Cook's first voyage, when Fuchsia excorticata was illustrated by one of the botanical artists in Joseph Banks's party. It was also included in Lamarck's Encyclopèdie of 1776. Any plant material collected by Banks was, however, lost when the Endeavour subsequently ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef and this 'most curious' tree fuchsia was not introduced into cultivation in England for another half century.
Johann Reinhold Forster (1729-89), the naturalist on Cook's second voyage, also observed the plant, but did not associate it with that collected by Banks and thought that he had discovered a new genus. Growing to around forty feet in damp forest with a trunk that could be more than three feet thick, it seemed markedly different from the known South American species. Forster named the plant Skinnera excorticata in honour of one of his friends, Richard Skinner, a clergyman in Lincolnshire and keen botanist. Although Skinner lost the honour of having a genus named after him, when Forster's plant was recognised as being the fuchsia identified by Banks's party, he did have a section of the fuchsia genus named after him when it was divided by Candolle in 1828.
In 1825 the Botanical Register (plate 857) illustrated F. excorticata, from a plant raised by James Colvill at the King's Road nursery in Chelsea. He had been sent seed from New Zealand by a Mr J. Richardson.