Japanese Camellia: The Rose of Winter


The Japanese Camellia (Camellia japonica) is one of the best known species of Camellia. It is a member of the Theaceae family or tea family. It is a flowering shrub or a small tree native to Japan, Korea and China. It is also the official state flower of Alabama. It is also called the “rose of winter.”

The genus of the Camellia japonica was named after a Jesuit priest and botanist named George Kamel. Carl Linnaeus gave Camellia japonica the
specific epithet japonica because Engelbert Kaempfer was the first to give a description of the plant while in Japan.

Camellia japonica is valued for its beautiful flowers, which can be single, semi-double flowered or double flowered. The camellia was first brought to the West in 1692 by Engelbert Kaempfer, Chief Surgeon to the Dutch East India Company. He brought details of over 30 varieties back from Asia. Camellias were introduced into Europe during the 18th century and had already been cultivated in the Orient for thousands of years. Robert James of Essex, England, is thought to have brought back the first live Camellia to England in 1739. Camellias were first sold in 1807 in an American nursery as greenhouse plants, but were soon sold to be grown outdoors in the south.

Camellia japonica has appeared in paintings and porcelain since the 11th century. Early paintings of the plant are usually of the single red flowering type. However, a single white flowering plant is shown in the scroll of the Four Magpies of the Song Dynasty. Camellias are seen as lucky symbols for the Chinese New Year and spring and were even used as offerings to the gods during the Chinese New Year. It is also thought that Chinese women would never wear a Camellia in their hair because it opened much later after the bud formed. This was thought to signify that she would not have a son for a long time.

One of the most important plants related to Camellia japonica is the Camellia sinensis, which is the plant tea comes from. This plant is not usually grown in gardens because it has small white flowers, unlike the Camellia japonica, which has larger, more beautiful flowers. It is not seen in art as often as the Camellia japonica, but it is shown in a painting called the Song Hundred Flowers which hangs in the Palace Museum in Beijing. Camellia sinensis may have been used as medicine during the Shang Dynasty. It was first used for drinking during the Zhou Dynasty.

There are more than 2000 hybrids developed from Camellia japonica. The shade of the flowers can vary from red to pink to white and sometimes have multi-coloured stripes or specks. The cultivars of Camellia japonica include 'Elegans' with large pink flowers which often have white streaks, 'Guilio Nuccio' with red to pinkish petals and yellow stamens, 'Mathotiana Alba' with pure white flowers, and the light crimson semi-double-flowered 'The Czar'.

Camellia japonica Alba Plena is one of the most beautiful and most prized of all the Camellias. It is nicknamed the “Bourbon Camellia”. Captain Connor of the East Indiaman, brought the flower to England in 1792. The flowers are pure white and about 3 to 4 inches across. It blooms earlier than most cultivated Camellias, in the early winter or spring, and can flower for 4 to 5 months. [source : Japanese Camellia]
Japanese Camellia: The Rose of Winter 4.5 5 Soldo The Japanese Camellia ( Camellia japonica ) is one of the best known species of Camellia . It is a member of the Theaceae family or tea fam...

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