The Japanese camellia or common camellia (Camellia japonica L., 1753) is a shrub species belonging to the Theaceae family.
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
Species C. japonica.
The following terms are synonymous:
– Camellia bonnardii Berl.;
– Camellia bonnardii Berl. ex Lem.;
– Camellia bononicana Anon.;
– Camellia fimbriata P.B.Mead;
– Camellia florida Salisb.;
– Camellia hayaoi Yanagita;
– Camellia hayaoi Yanagita ex Kusaka;
– Camellia hozanensis (Hayata) Hayata;
– Camellia imbricata P.B.Mead;
– Camellia imperialis Van Houtte;
– Camellia incarnata P.B.Mead;
– Camellia japonica f. albipetala H.T.Chang;
– Camellia japonica f. ilicifolia Makino;
– Camellia japonica f. lancifolia H.Hara;
– Camellia japonica f. leucantha Makino;
– Camellia japonica f. leucantha Makino ex H.Hara;
– Camellia japonica f. lilifolia Makino;
– Camellia japonica f. longifolia Uyeki;
– Camellia japonica f. macrocarpa (Masam.) Tuyama;
– Camellia japonica f. otome Makino;
– Camellia japonica f. parviflora Makino;
– Camellia japonica f. polypetala Makino
– Camellia japonica f. trifida Makino;
– Camellia japonica subsp. hortensis (Makino) Masam. & Yanagita;
– Camellia japonica subsp. hozanensis (Hayata) Yamam.;
– Camellia japonica var. adelaideae Drapiez;
– Camellia japonica var. anemoniflora-rosea C.Morren;
– Camellia japonica var. chandleri Herb.;
– Camellia japonica var. concava Makino;
– Camellia japonica var. conferta Herb.;
– Camellia japonica var. curvatifolia C.Morren;
– Camellia japonica var. delicatissima C.Morren;
– Camellia japonica var. donckelarii C.Morren;
– Camellia japonica var. eburnea Herb.;
– Camellia japonica var. foliolosa Herb.;
– Camellia japonica var. halleyi Scheidw.;
– Camellia japonica var. haylockii Herb.;
– Camellia japonica var. hexapetala Makino;
– Camellia japonica var. hortensis (Makino) Makino;
– Camellia japonica var. hozanensis (Hayata) Yamam.;
– Camellia japonica var. imbricata-alba C.Morren;
– Camellia japonica var. japonica;
– Camellia japonica var. kurtzii Van Mons;
– Camellia japonica var. latifolia C.Morren;
– Camellia japonica var. leeana-superba C.Morren;
– Camellia japonica var. longifolia Koidz.;
– Camellia japonica var. longifolia Nakai;
– Camellia japonica var. lysantha Herb.;
– Camellia japonica var. macrocarpa Masam.;
– Camellia japonica var. minuta C.Morren;
– Camellia japonica var. modesta Herb.;
– Camellia japonica var. nakaii (Hayata) Yamam.;
– Camellia japonica var. picta Herb.;
– Camellia japonica var. picturata C.Morren;
– Camellia japonica var. porrecta Herb.;
– Camellia japonica var. pumila Herb.;
– Camellia japonica var. punctata-major C.Morren;
– Camellia japonica var. resplendens C.Morren;
– Camellia japonica var. rosigena Herb.;
– Camellia japonica var. spofforthiae Herb.;
– Camellia japonica var. spontanea Makino;
– Camellia japonica var. sporrorthiana Herb.;
– Camellia japonica var. tamponea Drapiez;
– Camellia japonica var. triumphans C.Morren;
– Camellia japonica var. ulantha Herb.;
– Camellia japonica var. variegata Standish;
– Camellia japonica var. variegata Standish ex J.Dix;
– Camellia japonica var. venosa Herb.;
– Camellia japonica var. victrix Herb.;
– Camellia japonica var. woodsii Herb.;
– Camellia kaempferia Reboul;
– Camellia maeleniana Scheidw.;
– Camellia marginata Hally;
– Camellia marginata Hally ex J.Dix;
– Camellia mutabilis Paxton;
– Camellia nakaii (Hayata) Hayata;
– Camellia planipetala Lem.;
– Camellia reticulata var. wabiske Makino;
– Camellia sylvestris Berl.;
– Camellia tsubakki Crantz;
– Camellia tuckiana Anon.;
– Camellia wabiske (Makino) Kitam.;
– Kemelia japonica (L.) Raf.;
– Thea camellia Hoffmanns.;
– Thea hortensis Makino;
– Thea hozanensis Hayata;
– Thea japonica (L.) Baill.;
– Thea japonica var. hortensis Makino;
– Thea japonica var. spontanea Makino;
– Thea nakaii Hayata;
– Thea reticulata var. wabiske Makino.
The following varieties are recognized within this species:
– Camellia japonica var. japonica;
– Camellia japonica var. rusticana (Honda) T.L.Ming.
The term Camellia was dedicated by Linnaeus to the Czech missionary and botanist Georg Joseph Kamel (in Czech Jiří Josef Camel, in Spanish Jorge Camello), from the Latinized form Georgius Josephus Camellus or Camelius; pharmacist and Jesuit lay brother, he was assigned to the College of Saint Ignatius in Manila, on the island of Luzon, where he created the first pharmacy in the archipelago and a simple garden and collected plants, animals and minerals; corresponded Samuel Brown, doctor of the India Company in Madras, and Willem Ten Rhyne, doctor of the Dutch India Company in Batavia, who acted as intermediaries with Petiver and Ray, who published his works on the flora and fauna of the Philippines .
The specific epithet japonica refers to Japan, Japanese, due to its origin or distribution.
Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Camellia japonica is a plant native to South Korea and Japan (Honshu, Ryukyu Islands, Kyushu and Shikoku) but which also grows naturally in mainland China (Shandong, eastern Zhejiang), Taiwan, southern Korea and southwestern Japan.
Its habitat is that of forests, at altitudes of approximately 300–1,100 meters.
Camellia japonica is a plant that grows in the form of a shrub or small tree, which can reach a size of 1.5-6 (-11) m in height, although in its natural habitat it grows up to 6-9 m in height .
The young branches are greyish brown in colour; the current year’s twigs are purple-brown, glabrous.
The leaves are alternate, largely elliptical or oblong-elliptical, 5-10.5 (-12) × 2.5-6 (-7) cm, leathery, with a light underside dotted with glands and green and brown in colour, dark green upper surface, short, sharp apex with an obtuse tip and toothed margin.
The petiole is 5-10 mm long, pubescent or glabrous adaxially.
The flowers are axillary or subterminal, sessile, solitary or in pairs, 6-10 cm in diameter. They have 9-12 green, ovate sepals, 1-2 cm long, covered by a thin whitish tomentum, and 6-7 obovate petals, 3-4.5 cm long and 2-3 cm wide, white, pink in color or red; the 5 internal petals are joined to the base for 0.5-1.5 cm in length. The stamens are yellow, 2.5-3.5 cm long, and the ovoid ovary is trilocular.
In nature, flowering occurs between January and March.
The fruit is a globose capsule of 2.5-4.5 cm in diameter with 1 or 2 seeds per locule; pericarp 5-8 mm thick when dry, woody.
The seeds are brown, semiglobose to globose in shape, 1-2 cm in diameter.
Camellia japonica is a plant native to South Korea and Japan.
This plant is appreciated for its flowers, which can be simple, semi-double or double. There are more than 2,000 cultivars developed from C. japonica. The shade of the flowers can vary from red, to pink, to white; sometimes they have multicolored stripes or specks.
This plant was very popular for about a century, at the end of the 19th century there was a decline in interest, but from the second half of the 20th century interest returned, particularly in those climatically favorable areas for its cultivation.
This slow-growing plant prefers cool, humid climates for its cultivation and is quite resistant to low temperatures, down to around -10 °C and even less in some varieties, although the flowers are ruined when the temperature drops below 0 ° C.
From a pedological point of view, it prefers fertile, loose soil, rich in organic substance, well drained, sub-acid or neutral (pH 5-7) and kept humid; the optimal position is under light shade and sheltered from the wind.
To keep the soil moist and protect the roots from excessive heat it is useful to prepare a mulch at the base of the plant.
It is advisable to fertilize moderately at vegetative growth, preferably using organic or slow-release fertilizers, specific for acidophilic plants.
Furthermore, it adapts well to pot cultivation using plant substrates for acidophilic plants with the addition of around 25% of silica sand or agri-perlite to improve drainage, keeping in mind that, especially in summer, constant humidity must be ensured.
We remind you that if you use calcareous water for watering, yellowing of the leaves may occur (ferric chlorosis), in this case treat with iron chelates. Any pruning must be carried out at the end of flowering. It is quite disease resistant. In unfavorable cultivation conditions it can be subject to fungal diseases, some of which damage the leaves or buds (in particular Sclerotinia camelliae and Sclerotinia sclerotiorum), preventive treatments to be carried out at the end of winter with contact fungicides based on copper and sulfur are useful . It should be checked periodically to be able to intervene promptly in the event of attacks by mites, aphids and scale insects.
The plant reproduces by seed, in which case the first flowering occurs after 4 or more years. If you choose agamic propagation, which allows you to maintain the genetic characteristics of the mother plant, you can use the layering system, to be carried out at the beginning of winter, and grafting at the beginning of spring.
However, the most widespread system is through cuttings, in the summer-early autumn period, using portions of the branch of the year, 10-15 cm long, semi-woody, with four nodes, leaving the leaves in the two upper ones, placed to root in silica sand or agri-perlite in the shade and in a humid environment; rooting occurs in 100-120 days.
Customs and Traditions –
Camellia japonica is a plant known by various common names; we report: camellia, camellian rose, common camellia, japanese camellia (English); shan cha (transcribed Chinese); dong-baegnamu (Korean transcribed); camélia, camélia du Japon, rose du Japon (French); tsubaki (Japanese transcribed); camellia, Japanese rose (Italian); camélia, rosa-do-Japão (Portuguese); camellia (Spanish); japanische kamelie, kamelie (German).
Of this plant, with all its cultivars, it is believed that there are, as mentioned, at least 2000, with infinite shades ranging from white to pink, red, as well as mottled and spotted, and different shapes: single flower, semi-double , double, with peony, anemone or rose flowers.
This plant spread to Europe in the second half of the same century; in Italy the first was planted in Caserta in 1786, immediately becoming famous and soon from Caserta it spread towards northern Italy, in particular in Tuscany, where an intense work of selection and crossing began to obtain new varieties. Furthermore, according to research conducted in 1959 by Dr. Frederick Meyer, of the United States Department of Agriculture, the camellias of Campo Bello (Portugal) are the oldest specimens known in Europe, which would have been planted around 1550, that is, these trees are now around 460 years old. However, it is said that the camellia was first brought to the West in 1692 by Engelbert Kaempfer, chief surgeon of the Dutch East India Company. Robert James of Essex, England is thought to have brought the first live camellia back to England in 1739. Upon his return from Dejima, Carl Peter Thunberg made a short trip to London where he met Sir Joseph Banks. Thunberg donated four specimens of Camellia japonica to Kew Botanic Gardens. One of these is supposed to have been donated in 1780 to the botanical garden of Pillnitz Castle near Dresden in Germany, where it currently measures 8.9 meters high and 11 meters in diameter.
In the central area of Chile, the city of Bulnes is known as the city of camellias.
This plant has been present in Chinese paintings and porcelain since the 11th century. Early paintings of the plant are usually of the single red flowering type. However, in the Song Dynasty Four Magpies Scroll, a single plant with white flowers is shown.
As for other countries, the first evidence of camellias in Australia concerns a shipment to Alexander Macleay of Sydney who arrived in 1826 and was planted in Sydney at Elizabeth Bay House. In 1838 six C. japonica plants were imported by the botanist, horticulturist and farmer William Macarthur. In the years that followed he brought several hundred varieties and grew them on Camden Park Estate. For many years the Macarthur nursery was one of the Australian colony’s main sources of supply of ornamental plants, as well as fruit trees and vines.
In the United States, camellias were first sold in 1807 as greenhouse plants, but were soon distributed for growing outdoors in the South.
In Charleston, South Carolina, the Magnolia-on-the-Ashley Estate garden has introduced hundreds of new Camellia japonica cultivars from the 19th century onward, and its recently restored collection was designated an International Garden of Excellence in Camellia. “Debutante,” a popular variety, was originally introduced by Magnolia as “Sarah C. Hastie.”
Furthermore, C. japonica is the official flower of the American state of Alabama.
The flowers are rarely used as cut flowers due to their short lifespan (2-3 days) and delicacy, which makes transportation difficult, while the cut foliage is long-lived (2-4 weeks) and is used for floral arrangements.
In China the flowers are used as anti-hemorrhagic and their extract has antibacterial properties. The seeds contain up to 40% of oil rich in unsaturated fatty acids (oleic, linoleic and linolenic acid) used in the cosmetic industry, as a lubricant, but also widely for food use, with antioxidant and antibacterial properties.
Among other uses, this plant is reported to be a valuable biofuel crop in some parts of Asia and is commonly grown there. It is also widely used for its medicinal virtues.
However, it is widely used in horticulture, but is also harvested for edible oil, medicines and dyes.
In an ecological context, it is a plant that plays important roles in its habitats, such as a refuge and food plant, so much so that the leaves of C. japonica are eaten by the caterpillars of some lepidopterans, such as the thornwort (Ectropis crepuscularia).
The subpopulation from Japan is abundant, although there are known threats to subpopulations from Taiwan and the Republic of Korea, while it has been judged rare in China. However, globally the plant is classified as “Least Concern” in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (2013).
Preparation Method –
Camellia japonica is a very widespread plant cultivated mainly in the warm temperate to subtropical regions of southern China.
In addition to ornamental use, it is also used edible.
Furthermore, an edible oil called “Tsubaki oil” is obtained from the seed, mainly used for cooking.
The dried flowers are eaten cooked, used as a vegetable, or mixed with gelatinous rice to make a Japanese food called “mochi.”
The leaves are also a substitute for tea.
In the medicinal field the flowers are astringent, anti-hemorrhagic, hemostatic, ointments and tonics; if mixed with sesame oil they are used in the treatment of burns and scalds.
The oil is used medicinally although no further information is given, but it is likely that the oil is used as an emollient on the skin.
The plant has shown anti-tumor activity.
The fruits contain various active medicinal compounds that have cytotoxic properties and are of potential use in the treatment of cancer.
In other research, the plant has been shown to possess antibacterial activity; to inhibit human immunodeficiency virus type 1 protease; to inhibit the Epstein-Barr virus; have anti-metastatic activity; antioxidant activity, etc.
Among other uses it is reported that a green dye is obtained from pink or red petals.
Furthermore, Camellia japonica is used in crop selection for Camellia sinensis for resistance to tea anthracnose, downy mildew and cold damage.
From the seed we obtain a non-drying oil used for hair tanning.
A light oil, it can be used to lubricate delicate machinery such as the moving parts of a watch.
The oil consists mainly of oleic acid which is not subject to polymerization or oxidation, nor does it form solids at low temperatures.
The oil can be used as an anti-rust coating on metal.
The oil obtained from the seed of this species is likely to be of very similar quality to that obtained from Camellia oleifera.
Various compounds are extracted from the seeds once the oil is removed. These include saponins (used as an emulsifying agent in pesticides, foaming extinguishers, and detergents), tannins, and pentosan.
Seed cake has insecticidal activity and has been shown to offer effective control over a range of pests.
– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– GBIF, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.
– Useful Tropical Plants Database.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (ed.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora d’Italia, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.
Attention: Pharmaceutical applications and food uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not represent in any way a medical prescription; we therefore decline any responsibility for their use for healing, aesthetic or food purposes.