Camellia: a burst of colour among the bare trees

I’ve decided to start a little project: each week I’m going to write about a particular plant. This week I picked Camellia because it’s in flower right now!

This wonderful evergreen is for me the first sign of brighter days to come. I saw one on the side of the road during the week, with its large showy yet delicate pink flowers, and it reminded me that despite the cold weather, Spring is most definitely on its way.

So, what is there to learn about Camellia? Well, it’s a flowering plant in the family Theaceae, native to east and southeast Asia. It grows from the foothills of the Himalayas all the way to Japan and Indonesia and there are hundreds of species of the plant. The modern cultivar Camellia sinensis you might be very familiar with, because its leaves are used commercially to make the very common beverage we call tea!

Camellias can grow up to 20m tall in the right conditions. Their leaves are often thick and glossy, and their flowers usually large (12cm) with colours ranging from white to pink, red, and even yellow in parts of south China and Vietnam. They grow well in acid soils and enjoy large amounts of water. As an ornamental plant, Camellia does well in containers and thrives in part shade.

Apart from tea, the Camellia plant has many uses. Camellia oleifera for example, is an important source of edible oil obtained from its seeds. The oil can be used to clean and protect the blades of cutting instruments. In Japan people use it to care for their hair, and it is used to prepare traditional anti-inflammatory medicines.

Camellia is a rich source of antioxidants, vitamins, and omega-6 fatty acids. Its oil boasts a huge list of health benefits including the ability to balance cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, speed up wound healing, and reduce inflammation.

Do you have a Camellia growing in your garden? Is at all lovely and bright? Or maybe you have a memory attached to one? Either way I’d love to know!


📷Tea plantation by Sebastian Jude

📷Camellia sasanqua by junichiro aoyama

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