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Fuchsia excorticata

Fuchsia excorticata (*)

Classification System: APG IV

Superregnum: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Cladus: Angiosperms
Cladus: Eudicots
Cladus: Core eudicots
Cladus: Rosids
Cladus: Eurosids II
Ordo: Myrtales

Familia: Onagraceae
Subfamilia: Onagroideae
Tribus: Circaeeae
Genus: Fuchsia
Sectio: Fuchsia sect. Skinnera
Species: Fuchsia excorticata

Fuchsia excorticata (J.R.Forst. & G.Forst.) L.f., Suppl. Pl. 217. 1782.

Skinnera excorticata J.R.Forst. & G.Forst., Char. Gen. Pl. 29. 1775.

Agapanthus calyciflorus Banks & Sol. ex Hook.f., Bot. Antarct. Voy. II. (Fl. Nov.-Zel.). 1: 56. 1852.


Fuchsia ×colensoi Hook.f.


Supplementum Plantarum Systematis Vegetabilium Editionis Decimae Tertiae, Generum Plantarum Editiones Sextae, et Specierum Plantarum Editionis Secundae. Editum a Carolo a Linné. Brunsvigae [Braunschweig] 217. 1782 ("1781")
USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program. Germplasm Resources Information Network - (GRIN) [Online Database]. [1]

Additional references

Jones, S.; Wilcox, M. 2011: Trip report: Titirangi - Atkinson Reserve and the Titirangi Primary School bush, 20 August 2011. Auckland Botanical Society journal 66(2): 90–96. Reference page.
Wilcox, M. et al. 2013: Flora of Dingle Dell Reserve, St Heliers. Auckland Botanical Society journal 68(2): 118-132. Full article (PDF) (archived) Reference page.
Iles, J.M. & Kelly, D. 2014. Restoring bird pollination of Fuchsia excorticata by mammalian predator control. New Zealand Journal of Ecology 38(2): Abstract and full article (PDF)
Young, M. 2010: Russell Peninsula Labour Weekend camp, 23-27 October 2009. Auckland Botanical Society journal 65(1): 38-44. Reference page. [See p. 40]

Selected links


Vernacular names
English: New Zealand FuchsiaFuchsia excorticata, commonly known as tree fuchsia, New Zealand fuchsia and by its Māori name kōtukutuku, is a New Zealand native tree belonging to the family Onagraceae. It is commonly found throughout New Zealand and as far south as the Auckland Islands. It grows from sea level up to about 1,000 m (3,300 ft), particularly alongside creeks and rivers. It is easily recognised in its native environment by the characteristic appearance of its bark, which peels spontaneously, hanging in red papery strips to show a pale bark underneath. Its scientific name, excorticata, reflects this distinctive property.

Fuchsia excorticata is the largest member of the genus Fuchsia, growing to a height of 15 m (50 ft). It is unusual among New Zealand trees in being deciduous in the southern parts of its range. The introduction of the common brushtail possum to New Zealand precipitated a serious decline in this species, particularly where large concentrations of the possum are present. F. excorticata appears to be one of the possum's preferred food sources, and they will browse individual trees to the point of defoliation after which the trees will die. The small dark purple berry is sweet and juicy. It was favoured by Māori who, unusually, gave the fruit its own name of kōnini; it was also eaten by European settlers in jams and puddings.


Fuchsia excorticata is the largest species of Fuchsia in the world. This species differs in appearances from others in New Zealand. This species is deciduous, found most commonly in tree or shrub form. It typically grows to an average height of 12 meters high. It is distinguishable by a noticeably light brown/orange bark, which is extremely thin and paper like, peeling in strips.[1] Overall trunk diameter tends to be 60 cm with stout outreaching branches.

Main description of the leaves of this species include slim petioles, the join being approximately 1-4 cm long. The leaves tend to be up to 10 cm and ranging from 1.5-3 cm wide.[2] Leaves tend to form an oblong shape with a rounded base. Leaves of Fuchsia excorticata have a smooth epidermis with the exception of the margin and veins. The leaf margin is serrated with small teeth. Leaf colour can vary the upper side generally being dark green and the underside being paler and more silver in colour. Leaves can sometimes be suffused with red or purple colouring. Fuchsia excorticata is uncommon for its characteristic of being deciduous in southern areas of New Zealand, where the majority of its competing species are large evergreen species. Therefore, in the winter months Fuchsia excorticata is conspicuous by being found with few to no leaves.

Flowers are usually bright red to purple in colour and often emerge from the main stem. Flowers are solitary and pendulous. The four showy sepals tend to be 5-16 mm long. Filaments tending to range from 7-12 mm in length and purplish in colour. The flowers of Fuchsia excorticata are gynodioecious.[1]

Berries range to approximately 10 mm long, ellipsoid-oblong shaped, dark purple to almost black in colour.[1]
Natural global range

Fuchsia excorticata is endemic to New Zealand.[3]
New Zealand range

Fuchsia excorticata has a range throughout the North and South Islands, as well as Stewart Island and the Auckland Islands.[4]
Habitat preferences

Fuchsia excorticata is common in lowland and lower mountainous forest areas, especially on the forest margins, in clearings, and by streams.[5] Even if a forest is close to being destroyed, or is destroyed, tree fuchsias are more than often not still standing because they are close to indestructible. [6] This species is also abundant in cold mountain areas in the South Island.[6]
Life cycle/phenology

The seeds of Fuchsia excorticata are fairly small, though are known to have persistence in the soil. It is unknown how long they are viable for, but can germinate in just two weeks if the conditions are suitable. In dark conditions, germination could take up to eight weeks. Because the seeds are so small, seedlings are fragile and may have a hard time establishing themselves. F. excorticata is a gynodioecious species, meaning it has separate hermaphrodite (male and female) and female parts.[7] The female plants have a much harder time becoming pollinated, due to the limited number of birds (especially tui and bellbirds), which are the main pollinators of F. excorticata. This species flowers from August to December and produces berries from December to March.[6]
Soil preference

Tree fuchsia can grow in riparian soil and can be utilized as a predecessor species for areas where conditions and soils are not the best. It likes moist soil with a canopy overhead for shade.[8]
Predators, parasites, and diseases

Local birds such as tui, bellbirds, kererū, and silvereyes feed on tree fuchsia. Tui and kererū eat the flowers and fruit; other birds consume the nectar. Tree fuchsia can, and has in some locations, been pushed out of its habitat by plant competitors such as banana passionfruit and Buddleia. Mammalian threats, such as goats, have been known to forage on tree fuchsia, but they do not have as large an effect as possums. Possums put the tree at risk because they eat the fruit and seeds, and does this without stopping when seed production is low.[8]
Cultural uses

Known as kōtukutuku in Māori, Fuchsia excorticata had many uses for the Māori people and early settlers of New Zealand. These uses included eating, making jams, and use by Māori woman in vapor baths after childbirth.[9] The plant also contains tannins in the bark was used as a natural agent in leather tanning. Fuchia excorticata was also used to produce bright coloured dyes.

"Fuchsia exorticata (J.R. Forst & G. Forst)". Flora of New Zealand.
"Fuchsia exorticata". New Zealand Conservation Network.
"Fuchsia excorticata (J.R.Forst. & G.Forst.) L.f." New Zealand Organisms Register.
Bartholomew, Edward R. L. (2008). Distribution and demographics of Fuchsia excorticata Nelson Lakes National Park (PDF) (MSc). Victoria University of Wellington.
Webb, C.; Sykes, W. (1988). Flora of New Zealand. Botany Division, D.S.I.R.
Cockayne, L. (2010). New Zealand plants and their story. General Books.
Bell, R. (2010). Is Fuchsia excorticata (Onagraceae) seed limited? (MSc). University of Canterbury.
Wardle, J. (2011). Wardle's Native Plants of New Zealand and Their Story. Bateson Publishing Limited.

"Fuchsia Exorticata". Maori Plant Use Database. Landcare Research.

Salmon, J. T. (1996). The Native Trees of New Zealand. Auckland: Reed Books. ISBN 0-7900-0503-4.

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