Camellias, tea and me
In Japan the camellia is called tsubaki or shining leaf tree. These shrubs, with glossy evergreen leaves, are native to the hilly regions of China, Korea and Japan.
Camellia japonica, with its red flowers is rather typical of the ancestors of all the hundreds of modern varieties. The English name derives from the Czech priest and naturalist, Georg Kamel, who described the plants on his travels in China in the seventeenth century. The plants were first grown in Europe in the eighteenth century.
In Japan camellias are widely grown in gardens and as hedge plants, but are not normally grown indoors or used as cut flowers, as their habit of dropping the entire flower head is considered inauspicious. (Something to do with Samurai, perhaps?)
There are literally thousands of types of hybrid camellias, ranging from red, to pink and white, and with single, double or peony-type flowers. Noted lovers of the flower have included Coco Chanel (who always wore a white one) and the Queen Mother who grew them in all her gardens.
But for me it is Camellia sinensis which exerts the strongest influence. From its leaves we get tea. And without a nice cup of tea, there is no way I would be up this morning typing information about camellias for your edification. And no doubt many of you will have a mug of the brew next to the computer right now. So drink up and say a thank you to the genus Camellia…
- 1 Mar, 2007
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