A shrub usually under 8 ft high but sometimes almost twice as high in shady, sheltered positions; young stems reddish, glabrous or slightly downy; older branches brown, with a peeling bark. Leaves opposite or in threes (often in fours on strong shoots), narrowly ovate to elliptic-ovate, up to 2 in. long, acute or acuminate at the apex, usually wedge-shaped at the base, irregularly edged with small, sharp, forward-pointing teeth, medium to dark green above, paler beneath, glabrous, or slightly downy on the veins beneath; leaf-stalks reddish, slender, 1⁄4 to 3⁄8 in. long, glabrous or downy. Flowers borne singly or two together in the leaf-axils on slender slightly downy stalks up to 2 in. long. Tube bright red, 3⁄8 to 1⁄2 in. long, more or less cylindric, but narrowed abruptly at the base where it joins the ovary and often gradually narrowing upwards towards the base of the sepals; sepals coloured like the tube, narrow-lanceolate, acuminately tapered at the apex, 3⁄4 to 1 in. long. Petals about half as long as the sepals, purple or blue-violet, obovate, convolute. Stamens exserted beyond the mouth of the corolla and, with the still longer style, forming a conspicuous feature of the flower. Fruits oblong, up to 7⁄8 in. long.
Native of Chile and bordering parts of Argentina from the latitude of Valparaiso southward to Tierra del Fuego; described by Lamarck from a specimen collected in December 1767, by the French naturalist Commerson in the region of the Straits of Magellan, but known earlier from Feuillée’s ‘Itinerary’, in which it is figured as ‘thilco’, a rendering of its native name. The date of introduction is often given as 1788 but it is probable that the fuchsias introduced around that date were really the Brazilian F. coccinea (q.v.). There is no sound evidence of the introduction of F. magellanica to Britain before the early 1820s.
F. magellanica is a moisture-loving plant which in the wild forms thickets along streamsides or in marshy places. Often its companion is Berberis darwinii, though that species is less demanding of moisture and occurs also in other associations. Its north-south range in Chile is about 1,500 miles and it is found from the coast to moderate elevations in the Andes. It varies not only in size of leaf and length of flower-stalk but also in such characters as leaf-shape, habit, length of internodes, degree of downiness, and, perhaps most significantly, in the shape and relative size of the parts of the flower. Apart from the white-flowered var. molinae (see below) Munz (op. cit.) recognises only two varieties:
var. macrostema (Ruiz & Pavon) Munz F. macrostema Ruiz & Pavon – Leaves 1 to 2 in. long. Flower-stalks 15⁄8 to 21⁄4 in. long. Leaves also more membranous than in the typical variety and flowers somewhat larger.
var. magellanica F. magellanica var. typica Munz – This is the typical variety with leaves up to 1 in. long and flower-stalks 7⁄8 to 11⁄4 in. long.
However, Munz points out that the two varieties are linked by intermediates. The var. macrostema has a more northern distribution but there is considerable overlap. Owing to the indistinctness of these two varieties the description in the first paragraph comprises both. Some other more marked varieties are described below, together with some of garden origin:
var. chonotica (F. Phil.) Reiche F. chonotica F. Phil. – Leaves crowded, 11⁄8 in. long, 5⁄8 in. wide, on stalks about 1⁄4 in. long. Flowers on rather thick, only slightly pendulous pedicels, which are only 5⁄8 to 3⁄8 in. long. Calyx-tube 7⁄16 in. long; sepals about twice as long as the tube. Native of Chile, described from the Guaitecas Islands (part of the Chonos Archipelago) but also reported from Chiloe Island and adjacent parts of the mainland. Philippi also named a F. araucana but never published a description. From the short account given by his father, R. A. Philippi (Bot. Zeit., Jahrg. 34 (1876), p. 577, t. 9B, Fig. 6), this fuchsia resembled the var. chonotica in its short calyx-tube, but the flower-stalks were even shorter than in that variety and the leaves broad-ovate. The type specimen came from Toltén, on the Chilean coast north of Valdivia.
var. conica (Lindl.) Bailey F. conica Lindl.; F. macrostema var. conica (Lindl.) G. Don – In describing this fuchsia (as a species) Lindley remarked that a distinctive feature of the flower was ‘the figure of the tube of the calyx, which has a conical form, being much broader at the base than the apex, in consequence of which it appears divided from the ovarium by a strong contraction’. But a more significant character was the relative shortness of the sepals, which were scarcely longer than the petals. Leaves rather broadly ovate. Lindley’s description was made from a plant grown in the Horticultural Society’s garden at Chiswick, raised from seeds sent from Chile to Francis Place in 1824. This variety is one of the parents of ‘Globosa’ (q.v.). It is doubtful whether this variety is still in cultivation.
var. discolor (Lindl.) Bailey F. discolor Lindl. – This fuchsia, once known as the ‘Port Famine’ fuchsia, was introduced to cultivation by means of seeds collected during Captain King’s Surveying Voyage to the Magellan region (1826-30) and first put into commerce by Lowe’s nursery, Clapton. Port Famine, no longer on the maps, was an anchorage on the Straits of Magellan near to what is now Fuerte Bulnes; it is not, as Lindley erroneously stated, in the Falkland Islands. From the original figure and description (Bot. Mag., t. 1805 (1836) ), the typical plant was of dwarf, dense habit, with deep purple branches. Leaves long-stalked, small with undulated margins. The flowers do not show any particularly distinctive character. It was stated to be very hardy and is of interest as the first representative of the wide-ranging F. magellanica to come from near the extreme southern end of the area of the species. It was from this remote region that Commerson collected the type of F. magellanica and F. magellanica var. discolor should probably be regarded as a synonym of the typical variety. It is mentioned here because of its historical interest.
cv. ‘Globosa’. See F. ‘Globosa’ under hybrids (p. 245).
var. gracilis (Lindl.) Bailey F. gracilis Lindl.; F. macrostema var.gracilis, (Lindl.) D. Don; F. decussata Graham, not Ruiz & Pavon – A graceful shrub with slender, arching branches which are usually downy and sometimes densely so. Leaves up to 11⁄2 in. long and variable in width from narrow-lanceolate to ovate; stalks about 1⁄2 in. long. Flowers on slender stalks 11⁄2 to 2 in. long; they have the normal colouring of the species but are very distinct in their slender, long-tapered sepals which are often more than twice as long as the corolla. This variety was introduced from Chile by Alexander Cruckshanks, who sent seeds to Francis Place in 1822. Lindley’s statement that the seeds came from Mexico is certainly incorrect, and the plate he published (Bot. Reg., t. 847) is a poor one. It is, however, of no relevance to the typification of this variety, since Lindley’s F. gracilis is simply a renaming of F. decussata Graham, figured in Bot. Mag., t. 2507.
var. molinae Espinoza – Leaves pale green. Flower-stalks and ovaries green. Sepals almost white. Corolla pale lilac rose. This albino variant was first validly named and described in 1929, the type being a plant found on the island of Chiloe. But the same or a similar form had been introduced to cultivation in Britain by Clarence Elliott in 1926 and is still generally known as F. magellanica alba. In this the sepals spread horizontally; the style is pure white and a beautiful feature of the flower. It is interesting to note how this mutation has deprived all parts of the plant of the red or purple pigmentation that characterises the species; even the bark is paler. Unfortunately the cultivated plant is shy-flowering but worth growing, especially in milder parts, where it makes an elegant shrub with a fawn-coloured peeling bark. There is a fine example at Tresco Abbey in the Isles of Scilly and another in the Walled Garden at Nymans in Sussex. A.M. 1932.
cv. ‘Pumila’. See F. ‘Pumila’ under hybrids, p. 246.
cv. ‘Riccartonii’. See F. ‘Riccartonii’ under hybrids, p. 246.
cv. ‘Thompsonii’. – An old garden variety, raised before 1838 and almost certainly derived from the var. gracilis. It is bushier and leafier than the common form of that variety; the leaves are shorter and relatively narrower; the flowers are smaller but borne in great profusion from July to autumn. It is still one of the best of the hardy fuchsias, but does not assort well with the larger-flowered kinds.
cv. ‘Variegata’. – Leaves fairly regularly margined with creamy-white. A sport from the var. gracilis.
cv. ‘Versicolor’. – Leaves silvery grey, some of them partly margined with creamy white strips; young leaves flushed crimson-purple, the variegated parts of these bright red. A very attractive fuchsia, best grown in a fairly sunny position to bring out its full colouring. It is sometimes called F. magellanica ‘Tricolor’ and very often wrongly named F. magellanica ‘Variegata’. Like the true ‘Variegata’ (see above) it is a sport from F. magellanica var. gracilis.
F. magellanica was reintroduced from the Andes by the late Harold Comber in 1927 under field number 1031. A plant from these seeds grows against the wall of the Temperate House at Kew.