A Late Summer Drama Queen

‘Tis the season! When many of the other natives are still summer-dormant and patiently waiting for the winter rains, Fall is the time when California fuchsia (Epilobium canum or Zauschneria californica) illuminates the native garden with a welcome accent of color.

A few botanists still seem to disagree on whether California fuchsias belong in the genus Epilobium or Zauschneria. Historically, the latter name was given to it by the Czechoslovakian naturalist Karel Borivoj Presl in 1831 to honor his fellow Czech, Johann Baptista Josef Zauschner (1737-1799), a professor of medicine and amateur botanist. Some experts still classify them as Zauschneria (including the highly regarded “bible” of California Native Plants for the Garden (Bornstein, Fross & O’Brien) to distinguish them from another large group of Epilobium herbaceous plants called fireweeds.

The more commonly accepted name is descriptive of the anatomy of the floral structure: the Greek word ‘epi’ meaning “upon” and ‘lobium’ meaning “a pod” in reference to the position of the flowers above the developing seed capsules (you’ll have to ask a botanist to explain that.) To complicate matters, the common name is often misspelled as fuschia (rather than fuchsia).

The fuchsias need a little summer/fall water in order to bloom prolifically, or at least water that they share with a nearby irrigated plant. It’s also called hummingbird trumpet because of the long slender floral tube designed just for hummingbirds. In fact, there might be no better California native plant for attracting hummingbirds. Carpenter bees and honeybees are too large for the narrow throat of the flowers. Instead, they perch on the base of the floral tube and puncture the blossoms with their mouthparts in order to steal the nectar.

The foliage can be dark green, pale green, medium green, gray or blue-gray. The blossoms are typically red, but different varieties come in orange-red, salmon, pink and even white. It readily spreads both by shedding its own seeds and by underground rhizomes, and can take over a plot if the conditions are right.

Quote for the Occasion
“Being a fashion model in Paris, I realized what made me happy. It was not the fancy clothes and fancy restaurants. It was being in nature. I went from wearing Givenchy to wearing overalls. I’m so much happier in overalls.”
– Melinda Price, co-owner of the Peace and Plenty saffron farm, Lake County

Guided Tours of the Granada Native Garden are Available
Are you interested in learning about some of the plants that are described in this Newsletter or in the archived issues?  One or more staff of the GNG are routinely on duty at the Garden on Mondays and Tuesdays, roughly between 10:00 AM and 12:00 noon.  But it isn’t hard to arrange a guided visit at other times.  If you are interested in scheduling a visit, just email Jim at  JIMatGNG@gmail.com .  Or if you have any questions or inquiries, please email Jim at the same address! Directions to the Garden and information about volunteering there can be found by clicking one of the buttons at the top of the first page of this Newsletter.