The species in Hemsleyella grow in cloud forest or, less commonly, in scrub forest, puna, or subpáramo habitats in the tropical Andes from Venezuela to Bolivia at elevations from 1,100 to 4,200 meters (Berry 1985) and consist of terrestrial or epiphytic shrubs, subshrubs, or lianas, sometimes tuberous, with opposite, ternate, or alternate, usually deciduous, leaves. The axillary, pendant flowers are clustered at the branch apex or in racemes and exhibit an elongated floral tube eighteen to 160 millimeters long in various shades of red to orange-red, pink or lavender. The nectaries are smooth and unlobed. The sepals are shorter than the floral tube, connate at the base, erect to spreading or sometimes recurved, and colored rose-red to green, or dull purple-pink. Petals are absent. Stamens occur in two unequal series with yellow pollen. The seeds number between 50 and 250.
Hemsleyella is the section of the tubers. Most varieties get a tangle of tubers, just like a potato, but the tubers are largely above the ground. They occur both on the ground and epiphytically alive. In epiphytic form, they have more thickened fleshy roots, such as in the Ellobium section.
Another notable feature of this section is the lack of petals. The entire section occurs on the ever-damp slopes and in rocky crevices in the cloud forests of the Andes Mountains, from northern Peru to Venezuela. It is the same region where most of the Fuchsia section occurs. Only the Hemsleyellas grow under much more extreme conditions. Some species even above 4,000 meters. They have adapted very well to this and have developed a very strict, seasonal lifestyle.
Generally they bloom in the dry winter period, they have no leaves. In this dry period, they depend on the reserve food and water stored in their tubers or thickened roots. Flowering time is short. But striking. On the bare wood, usually with very striking colors to attract the hummingbirds. In the rainy period after that they experienced explosive growth.
The section is characterized by the great rarity of many of its members, some of which are known from just one or a few collections, and attests to the high degree of local endemism found in the mountains of central Peru. Hemsleyella species are particularly at risk of extinction due to deforestation.
Most species in this section are not found in cultivation.
Hemsleyella was named by P. Munz in 1943 in honor of the English botanist, William Botting Hemsley (1843-1924), Keeper of the Library and Herbarium at Kew. He had published a paper on “The Apetalous Fuchsias of South America” in the Journal of Botany (14:69-70) in 1875. A version of his name first appeared as Fuchsia hemsleyana (Woodson & Seibert 1937) but that species is now a synonym of Fuchsia microphylla subsp. hemsleyana (Woodson & Seibert, Breedlove 1937) in Fuchsia sect. Encliandra.