By Elsie Sydnor
In all the long list of fuchsia hybrids, only a handful fit into the triphylla category. Yet F.triphylla coccinea was the very first fuchsia discovered by Father Charles Plumier. According to Leo Boullemier, Plumier was a member of a French expedition to Hispaniola to search out new drugs and herbs to combat diseases. On a later expedition he made more detailed studies of the local plants, making notes and drawings and collecting seeds, flowers and leaf specimens. Unfortunately, one ship was wrecked and all the specimens were lost. Plumier returned only with his notes and field drawings. This all happened between 1689 to 1697.
F.triphylla was not heard of again until Thomas Hogg of The United States “rediscovered” it and collected seed. Eventually plants were sent to England where they were positively identified by Kew Botanical gardens in 1882.
Carl Bonstedt of Germany led the way in hybridizing F. triphylla, ‘Gartenmeister Bonstedt’ being the most well-known. ‘Traudchen Bonstedt’, ‘Mary’, and ‘Koralle’ are also possible to find. He hybridized all of these between 1904 and 1906. At the same time in England Alwin Berger and F. Rehnelt came up with some promising seedlings which Heinrich Henkel of Darmstadt, Germany liked. He bought the whole collection and sold them under the name of ‘Andenken an Heinrich Henkel’, (known also as ‘Souvenier de Henry Henkel’). ‘Leverkusen’, classified as a triphylla type, is a seedling of ‘Andenken an Heinrich Henkel’. Introduced in Germany in 1928, it is the first to move away from the standard triphylla characteristics. Early hybridizing experiments with triphylla were probably done with F.boliviana, F.fulgens and F.splendens, always keeping f. triphylla as one parent.
Triphylla means three-leaved, which sets it apart from the other species which have two leaves at each node. Blossoms form in racemes at the ends of each branch and keep blooming in clusters down the stem, forming no more large leaves on the stem to get in the way of the flowers’ beauty. The blossoms are long and thin, mostly tube, with just a small stand-out sepal skirt and a small corolla underneath. Reds and oranges predominate but E. Goulding of England managed the impossible when he introduced ‘Our Ted’ in 1987, a white triphylla!
True triphyllas must have the terminal clusters of flowers and their leaves are softer, almost velvety. Often they are darker green, with purple or red coloration on the undersides and veins. As triphylla types move farther from the original parent, some of these characteristics are diminished. First to go is the terminal blossoms. The shape is still distinguishable, but the tubes get fatter and the sepals and corollas grow larger in some, but the color range is still in the red and orange range, except for ‘Our Ted’, or course. They tend to bloom continuously, but not in clusters. Leaves sometimes form in threes, but not at each node. Sometimes single leaves are off set, so that pinching will not produce two new stems.
Triphyllas generally grow upright, with many branches coming up from the base. As blossoms form the branches bend slightly with the weight and dance gracefully in the wind. It is possible to grow them as a shrub with one single stem and many branches. Varieties like ‘Scarlet Ribbons’ (Schneider, 1984 have such large leaves they need to be allowed to grow big enough to allow the foliage to show off its beauty.
Some triphylla types have stiff branches. ‘Leverkusen’, which grows more compact and small, makes a pretty basket but does not drape down easily. ‘Elfriede Ott’ also has stiff branches for basket training. I find I like it better as an upright.
More tolerant of heat, but less able to take the cold, triphyllas should be included in a fuchsia garden. With light and warmth in a greenhouse triphyllas might be encouraged to bloom all year long, and brought into the house as a focal plant for special occasions.
References for this article:
Bartlett, George, Fuchsias, the Complete Guide to Cultivation, Propagation and Exhibition, Crowood Press, 1988
Boullemier, Leo B., The Checklist of Species, Hybrids and Cultivars of the Genus Fuchsia, Blandford Press, 1991
Boullemier, Leo B., A Plantsman’s Guide to Fuchsias, Ward Lock Ltd., 1989
Logan, Randy, “Fuchsia Triphylla Hybrids”, Fuchsia Culture, AFS, 1984
From AFS Bulletin September/October 1994