Graptophyllum excelsum

Scarlet Fuchsia, Native Fuchsia

Family: Acanthaceae

Graptophyllum excelsum is found along the eastern coast and ranges of Queensland. 

The natural habitat of Graptophyllum excelsum is north of Cairns to south of Gladstone but this versatile and hardy plant can grow in Melbourne (or so some gardening books suggest) and is resistant to light frosts.

In my northern Sydney suburban garden, my two plants have grown to about 3m high and 1m wide with multiple stems.

I am growing them in a position that receives morning sun and afternoon shade and I try not to let them dry out for any length of time. The attractive leaves are about 3cm x 1cm and are dark shiny green and shaped like a spatula – with a broad tip and tapering to the base.



In the garden

I find Graptophyllum excelsum to be an attractive foliage plant and outstanding in flower. The flowers are deep scarlet red, tubular, about 3cm long occurring in spring and early summer. This is a good flowering season for me (due to a wet year) and the flowers cover every branch – very attractive. These flowers which are very attractive to birds are followed by club shaped woody seed capsules which contain 2 seeds.

Mature plants can get quite leggy with all the growth at the top, so after flowering, I cut about 1/3 of the stems back quite hard as this promoted new growth down low, making the plant more attractive (well to me anyway).


The preferred propagation method is by cuttings.

Other information

And a bit of non-native trivia (thanks to Wikipedia):

Fuchsia is a genus of flowering plants that consists mostly of shrubs or small trees. The first, Fuchsia triphylla, was discovered on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola (present day Dominican Republic and Haiti) in 1703 by the French Minim monk and botanist, Charles Plumier. He named the new genus after the renowned botanist Leonhart Fuchs (1501–1566) who was a German physician and one of the three founding fathers of botany, along with Otto Brunfels and Hieronymus Bock (also called Hieronymus Tragus).

Derivation of Name: Graptophyllum…from Greek graptos, written on, and phyllon, a leaf, referring to the markings on the leaf (especially noticeable on G.ilicifolium); excelsum…from Latin excelsus, tall or lofty.

By Jeff Howes