Autumn camellia, Camellia sasanqua

shrub of the family Theaceae (as the tea of China, Camellia sinensis var. sinensis)

Etymology: the Camellia name was created in 1753 by the Swedish naturalist Carl von Linné in homage to the father Jesuit botanist George Joseph Kamel, native to Moravia (Brno, a 1661 - Manila, on 1706), who lived in the Philippines during 17 years. The Camellia was introduced after his death, in the middle of the XVIIIth century. "Autumn" variety is so indicated because it flourishes at the end of the autumn and in winter, unlike Camellia japonica, Camellia with double flower, which flourishes at the end of winter - spring. One thinks that word " sasanqua " comes from a phonetic variation of the Chinese word indicating the "flower of tea Mantan", allusion to the soft fragrance of this camellia.
Origin: China, Japan (island of Ryukyu).
Habitat: the camellia of autumn fears the limestone. If the soil is too compact, bring peaty soil.
Habita : full light. Avoid southern exposure which burns the foliage. Mild and humid oceanic climate is perfectly suitable for Camellias.
Hardiness: zone 6-7 (it supports cold until -20 °C or - 4°F). It is recommended to protect with a veil of winter and mulch the roots because they are superficial.
Height: 3 m (5 m for some species).
Rate of Growth: slow.
Shape: upright, ramified, with branches rather tangled.
Bark smooth, brownish colour.
Persistent foliage. A camellia leaf persists about 3 - 4 years on the shrub. Leaves alternate, simple, in form lengthened, elliptical, long from 4 to 8 cm, on 2 - 4 cm broad. They are bright, clear and flexible, with a rather thick texture. Very short petiole. Bright, dark green top.
Flowers in winter. Colour: red, pink, in April-May. The flower is odorous particularly if the weather is mild.
Fruit: capsule of 2-3 cm long (resembling a small nut in its bug) containing seeds. The fruit has no ornamental interest.

the camellia is a nice shrub to be planted insulated or in massif. Its attraction comes from its abundant flowers which appear in winter when other shrubs are in dormancy. It is the equivalent of rose, by its form and by its colours.

Maintenance: pruning is not necessary, safe to clarify too abundant branches.
Propagation method: cutting

Other common species:
Camellia japonica: its size is somewhat lesser (2 m) and it prefers exposure to shade or half-shade. It is less resistant to cold.
It flourishes in spring, unlike Camellia sasanqua. Its flower is bigger. Some varieties have a double flower (20 petals and more, hidden stamens).
Its leaf is slightly toothed on the margin.

More than 200 species were listed, among which 90 % in China of the South.

Literature: the french novelist Alexander Dumas familiarised the public with the camellia since his novel, La dame aux camélias.


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