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The Camellia - A Beautiful Flower

Updated on November 5, 2013
My camellia bush. I think it's a Camellia japonica.
My camellia bush. I think it's a Camellia japonica. | Source

My first memory of seeing a camellia (or really knowing what a camellia is) is seeing one on the lapel of my high school Government and Economics teacher, Mrs. Christenberry, about 30 years ago. Mrs. Chris loved camellias. Throughout my high school career, she delighted in wearing a camellia every day.

Living in south Alabama for almost more years than I can count, I found myself wanting a camellia bush. I don't really know why. I thought they were pretty. Neither home we had in the area seemed right for planting camellias. So, I waited.

At our current home in Tennessee, there are many plants in the yard we have enjoyed identifying and nurturing. The camellia japonica is one of them. I was thrilled to discover it right at the corner of my front porch steps. It blooms beginning in November each year. One spring a couple of years ago a robin built a nest there and last year a mockingbird did the same. Definitely a multi-purpose bush!

Camellia Fame

The Camellia Inn in Healdsburg, California

The Camellia is the state flower of Alabama.

The Camellia Ball, in Mobile, Alabama, introduces debutantes each winter.

Sacramento, California, is known as the Camellia City.

A poem entitled, "Camellia," was written by Rabindranath Tagore.

There are several camellia festivals held each year in various cities in China and Japan.

It's kind of funny that in the last several books I've read, the camellia has been mentioned. That got me to thinking about the flower again so I did some research.

The camellia originated in Japan and China a long, long time ago and is prominent all over Asia. It was named for Georg Joseph Kamel, an Austrian Jesuit missionary, by Carl Linnaeus. In 1698 James Cuninghame, a Scottish surgeon who worked for the British East India Company, shipped 600 varieties of Oriental plants to England, including the camellia.

The camellia bush stays green all year and has thick glossy leaves. The blooms are large rose-like flowers, and colors range from white to pink to red. There is even a yellow variety in Asia. The fast-growing plants require an acidic but well-draining soil and lots of water. The flowering shrub is a perennial and blooms in cooler weather. It's "fruit" is a dry capsule containing seeds.

The Camellia sinensis is also known as the tea plant. White, black, green and oolong tea are brewed using the leaves of this variety. The Chinese have used the leaves medicinally to cure asthma and coronary artery diseases.

The Camellia oleifera produces tea oil, that, after much processing, is used in cooking.

Camellias are popular world-wide. The non-profit International Camellia Society was founded in 1962 and does research and registers new camellias.


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