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Wednesday, June 20, 2007
By LINDA INOKI
Emily Dickinson was a keen observer of plants, and here she zooms in on a tantalizing aspect of fuchsias — their luscious buds. My father used to grow lots of lovely fuchsias, and when I was a child I could not resist popping open the buds! Once open, the typically bi-colored flowers look like little ballerinas in pink and purple, or red and white dresses. There are about 100 species of wild fuchsias, and most are from Central and South America, but some are also found in Tahiti and New Zealand. Plant types range from a small ground-hugging forms to the impressive Tree Fuchsia of New Zealand, which grows up to 9 meters high. From just 10 or so species, more than 8,000 hybrids have been developed. They are usually grown as tender or hardy shrubs for the garden, or as pot plants. However, the tough Fuchsia magellanica, a native of southern Chile, is often grown as a hedge in Ireland and Scotland. The genus was named after the German botanist Leonhard Fuchs (1501-66), although unfortunately he never saw the plants since fuchsias did not arrive in Europe until the late 18th century.