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Christmas Camellia
Camellia sasanqua1.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Unranked: Angiosperms
Unranked: Eudicots
Unranked: Asterids
Order: Ericales
Family: Theaceae
Genus: Camellia
Species: C. sasanqua
Binomial name
Camellia sasanqua
Thunb.

The Christmas Camellia (Camellia sasanqua) (or Yuletide) is a species of Camellia native to the evergreen coastal forests of southern Japan in Shikoku, Kyūshū and many other minor islands as far south as Okinawa. It is usually found growing up to an altitude of 900 metres.

It is an evergreen shrub growing to 5 m tall. The leaves are broad elliptic, 3–7 cm long and 1.2–3 cm broad, with a finely serrated margin. The flowers are 5–7 cm diameter, with 5-8 white to dark pink petals.

History and usesEdit

At the beginning of the Edo period, cultivars of Camellia sasanqua began appearing; the first record of the cultivars of this plant was made by Ihei Ito (1695–1733)[1]. In Japan, it is not considered to be a true Camellia as the Japanese call it Sazanka (サザンカ, 山茶花) [2].

Camellia sasanqua was not known in western societies until 1869 when Dutch traders imported some specimens into Europe. It is now also introduced to Australia and the United States[2].

It has a long history of cultivation in Japan for practical rather than decorative reasons. The leaves are used to make tea while the seeds or nuts are used to make tea seed oil[3], which is used for lighting, lubrication, cooking and cosmetic purposes. Tea oil has a higher calorific content than any other edible oil available naturally in Japan[2].

It is known well by appearing in the lyrics of nursery rhyme called "Takibi".

ReferencesEdit

  1. Winter Flowers Camellia sasanqua
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Botanic Gardens Trust—Camellias
  3. Camellia sasanqua in BoDD – Botanical Dermatology Database

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