April in the forest with Chris Horne and Barbara Mitcalfe
Fuchsia excorticata, Kōtukutuku, Tree fuchsia
Fuchsia excorticata, tree fuchsia, kōtukutuku, is one of the few plants in our indigenous flora that is deciduous, that is, it usually sheds its leaves in winter. So look now for the trees up to 12 m tall and with trunks up to 60 cm diameter, with peeling, brown, papery bark. The dainty, deep red flowers hang down on slender stalks.
Tree fuchsia is common on bush edges in lowland to lower-montane forests. It colonises and stabilises steep gullies in e.g. the Tararua Range. The NZ fuchsia species are the only fuchsia species in the world which have blue pollen. Fuchsias are sometimes described as ‘possum ice-cream’ because possums can browse the trees to death.