The fuchsia spotlight. Cardinal

Cardinal 01

‘Cardinal’ is another classic American cultivar released by Evans & Reeves Nurseries of Los Angeles in 1938. It has long internodes and likes to spread wide so give it room. It's also winter hardy in the usual places that fuchsias are hardy.

People usually think of the cardinal bird but the name might maybe refer the other kind of cardinal. Who knows? The many scarlet flowers bear a striking resemblance to the ranks of scarlet tassels hanging on cords from both sides of a church cardinal’s wide-brimmed scarlet hat of office.

Called a
galero, this distinctive red hat was placed on a new cardinal's head on his elevation by the Pope from 1245, until it was replaced by the zucchetto (skullcap) and biretta (square cap usually with four peaks) in 1969.

In ecclesiastical heraldry, though, the galero is still displayed over a cardinal's coat of arms in place of the inappropriately martial helmet and crest. From beneath the hat, fifteen red tassels fall on red cords on each side of the shield. A galero is also often physically hung over a cardinal's tomb at his death.

Unfortunately for the theory, the first Archbishop of Los Angles to be created a cardinal was only its second one, James Cardinal McIntyre (1948–1970), elevated in 1953. In 1939, John Joseph Cantwell (1936–1947) was a mere Archbishop and remained one until his death in office in 1947. An Archbishop had a version of the galero, alright, but it was as green as the leaves on 'Cardinal' and he was only accorded ten green tassels to a side.

The scarlet northern cardinal bird, Cardinalis cardinalis, isn't native to the western half of the US, just ranging through Texas and Mexico and down into northern Guatemala and Belize, with an outpost in southern Arizona. No colorful cardinals of the orinthological kind flapped around Los Angeles when 'Cardinal' was first released into local gardens.

In fact, even the more muted desert cardinal, Cardinalis sinuatus, with only flashes of orange-red at his tips and crest, doesn't make it past Arizona into California, either.

Nor did cardinals of the ecclesiastical kind in the 30s and 40s.

Bird or prelate? Again, who knows? But it does make for interesting musings on a name. And I do like to muse.

(Illustrations: Fig. 1
Fuchsia 'Cardinal'; Fig. 2 The northern cardinal, Cardinalis cardinalis; Fig. 3. The coat of arms of James Cardinal MacIntyre as Archbishop of Los Angeles and as a cardinal; Fig. 4. The coat of arms of John Cantwell as Archbishop of Los Angeles but not a cardinal.)