Shuffled Schufia

Judging from the way botanists usually devise new names, you would think that Section Schufia, one of the twelve into which the genus Fuchsia is divided, was named to honor a famous and eminent botanist by the name of Schufe. Or maybe it was intended as a nod to an intrepid plant collector, some noble and adventurous Friedrich Freiherr von Schuf, who braved poisonous three-eyed snakes and pesky banditos in the jungles of Central America to bring it home? The director of a botanical garden? The Schuffel, a German garden hoe? Guess again. Sometimes taxonomy gets complicated. Other times, it gets a giggle. A polite one, of course, but a giggle none-the-less. Possibly, later, even a few tears as well. Occasionally it gets all three.

In 1826 the English botanist and editor of Curtis's Botanical Magazine, John Sims (1749-1831), described an interesting new fuchsia discovered in Guatemala as F. arborescens because it was so unusually large it seemed to him like a tree. The French-Alsatian botanist Édouard Spach (1801-1879), thinking that Fuchsia arborescens's lilac-like panicles made it quite unlikely to be so closely related to Fuchsia, created a new monospecific genus, Schufia in 1835, and removed arborescens there. The Austrian botanist, Stephan Endlicher (1804-1849), clearly saw the connection, though, and put it right back into Fuchsia in 1840. After that, Fuchsia arborescens had a variety of formal adventures until 1943 when Phillip Munz (1892-1974) decided to just be done with it all and attempted to reorganize the tangle the entire genus had become.

Unbeknownst to them all, the first Fuchsia arborescens had already been collected as Fuchsia arborea by the celebrated botanists José Mariano Mociño and Martín de Sessé y Lacosta during the legendary Royal Botanical Expedition to New Spain that took place between 1787 and 1803. They had even planted a specimen in the Royal Botanical Garden established by the team in Mexico City. Unfortunately, the final results of that great botanizing expedition languished in Spain, unpublished and mostly forgotten because of politics and war and the regal apathy of kings, until it was too late. Even the spectacular illustrations of their Fuchsia arborea done in the field would become lost until a significant portion of the Expedition's paintings, missing for over a century and a half, unexpectedly turned up again in 1980, preserved in a private family library in Barcelona.

Spach himself was to be honored in Spachia fulgens by the Swede, Nils Lilja (1808-1870), when he renamed Fuchsia fulgens in 1840. For some reason, Spachia quickly became Ellobium by the very same Lilja in 1841. Lilja, an eclectic and eccentric Swedish intellectual, writer and poet cum botanist, espoused some interesting views for his times, such as free love. Apparently he also practiced what he preached as he fathered fifteen children including four, or perhaps six, with a maid. Lillja’s most popular book was a philosophical work called Menniskan, or Mankind. Also the author of Skånes flora (Flora Scania) and that classic title of Nordic agriculture and gardening, Flora öfver Sveriges odlade vexter, innefattande de flesta på fritt land odlade vexter i Sverige, jemte de allmännare och vackrare fenstervexterna, med kännetecken och kort anvisning om deras odlingssätt, (Stockholm, 1839), Lilja tried his hand at the taxonomy of Central Ame
rican fuchsias. He was the father of Myrnia microphylla, renamed from Fuchsia microphylla, and even created a new family he called the Fuchsiaceae, as well. But by 1881, the French botanist, Élie-Abel Carrière (1818-1896) decided that Ellobium, was indeed still really a Fuchsia and so, voilà, it re-became Fuchsia fulgens. Fuchsia fulgens had again first been collected by Sessé & Mociño—but this time validly published in Switzerland by Auguste-Pyrame de Candolle in 1828. He had based his diagnosis on the expedition's illustrations temporarily lent to him by a now-decrepit Mociño while he was in French exile from 1812-1820, and before Mociño died, impoverished and blind, of a cerebral hemorrhage probably brought on by heartbreak and disappointment. After which most of the illustrations disappeared until recently.

So, who's on third? Maybe this mysterious Schufe? No, not really. No one is, in fact. Uncharacteristically for a botanist, Spach seemed quite at a loss for new names at precisely the very moment he needed to create one; Schufia is simply a bad anagram of Fuchsia. The odd jumble was revived for Fuchsia sect. Schufia, which includes only two species Fuchsia arborescens and Fuchsia paniculata (Lindley 1856).