Camellia, a genus of shrubs belonging to the natural order ternstromiacew, and furnishing the domestic drug tea and some of the most beautiful of cultivated flowers. All the species are natives of China, Japan, or Nepaul. They were first imported into Europe by a German Jesuit named Kamel, about the year 1739; and hence the name of camellia. They are polypetalous cotyledons, with alternate feather-veined leaves, regular flowers, the petals and sepals both imbricated in aestivation, and have some affinity with the rose tribe. The C. bohea and viridis are the species whose dried leaves make the tea of commerce. The G. Japonica is called by the French la rose du Japon, or la rose de la Chine. It has broad shining leaves and beautiful red or white flowers, single or double, and is the origin of nearly all the varieties now cultivated in gardens. It is greatly admired in China and Japan, and is of frequent occurrence in Chinese paintings. Many of its varieties have been created by the skill of the Chinese, and are remarkable for their brilliant colors and the exquisite symmetry with which their petals are arranged.
These have been imported into Europe and America, and new varieties are annually produced by horticulturists. Forty-five standard varieties have been developed, some having single, some double, and some semi-double flowers, and being in color white, red, yellow, or variegated. Camellias thrive best when treated as conservatory shrubs, planted in the open border under glass, freely exposed to light and air, and sufficiently protected from the frost. Thus treated, they become large evergreen bushes, densely covered with foliage, upon which their splendid flowers are conspicuously beautiful, and much more brilliant than when the roots are confined in garden pots and cramped for want of room. They are propagated by cuttings, layers, and buds, as well as by seeds. Only a few seeds, however, can be obtained, and these require two years to come up, but make the best stocks of any.. The G.reticulata, which grows in China, is esteemed the handsomest of all the varieties. Its leaves are remarkably netted, and it has semi-double flowers, of a deep rose-red color, sometimes 6 inches in diameter.
Two species, the G. sasanqua and the G. oleifera, are cultivated as oleaginous plants in China, and the oil pressed from the seeds is said to be equal to the finest quality of olive oil.