Camellia

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About 100–250, see text

Thea

Camellia, the camellias, is a genus of flowering plants in the family Theaceae. They are native to eastern and southern Asia, from the Himalaya east to Korea and Indonesia. There are 100–250 described species, with some controversy over the exact number. The genus was named by Linnaeus after the Jesuit botanist Georg Joseph Kamel from Brno, who worked on the Philippines. This genus is famous throughout East Asia; camellias are known as cháhuā (茶花) in Chinese, as tsubaki (椿) in Japanese, as hoa trà or hoa chè in Vietnamese and as dongbaek-kkot (동백꽃) in Korean.

The most famous member – though often not recognized as a camellia – is certainly the tea plant (C. sinensis). Among the ornamental species, the Japanese Camellia (C. japonica) (which despite its name is also found in Korea and Eastern China) is perhaps the most widely known, though most camellias grown for their flowers are cultivars or hybrids.

Contents

Description

They are evergreen shrubs and small trees up to 20 meters tall. Their leaves are alternately arranged, simple, thick, serrated, usually glossy, and usually three to 17 cm long. Their flowers are usually large and conspicuous, one to 12 cm in diameter, with five to nine petals in naturally occurring species of camellias. The colors of the flowers vary from white through pink colors to red, but yellow flowers are found in just a few species of camellias. The so-called "fruit" of camellia plants is a dry capsule, sometimes subdivided into up to five compartments, each compartment containing up to eight seeds.

The various species of camellia plants are generally well-adapted to acidic soils, and most species do not grow well on chalky soil or other calcium-rich soils. Most species of camellias also require a large amount of water, either from natural rainfall or from irrigation, and the plants will not tolerate droughts. However, some of the more unusual camellias – typically species from karst soils in Vietnam can grow without too much water.

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