Thursday, November 14, 2013

Oh Camellia, You're Breaking my Heart!

The camellias are blooming in the conservatory at Matthaei Botanical Gardens! The camellia (Camellia sp.) is native to eastern and southern Asia. Most camellias are fall-to-spring bloomers. Remember that the tea plant in the conservatory (Camellia sinensis) is a camellia, too. We have our camellias planted under the silk tree (Albizia julibrissin) which is dormant right now. The silk tree was planted there purposefully—to provide filtered shade in the hot summer and let the camellias have as much sun as possible in winter when the silk tree is leafless.

Note that our camellia plants are cultivars selected/bred by humans. Camellias have been cultivated by humans for centuries in China and Japan. Also note that while the tea plant (Camellia sinensis) is a camellia, not all camellias are used to make tea. They are very distinct as far as which is used to make tea, and there are different types of tea-making camellias and different parts of the plant are used to make various types of tea. Two of the camellia flowers are pictured below.

Camellia flowers are also a common subject of art in China and other Asian counties. What a rich connection the camellia has with humans!
Camellia 'Asomusume'

Camellia 'Kumagai'