wild species of Camellia japonica

Family: Theaceae Latin name: Camellia Plant type: evergreen tree

<Camellia japonica>
Japanese name: TSUBAKI Height: 10-15m
Habitat: forests and mountains of coastal areas, all over Japan
Blooming season: February-April Flower size: 3-10cm
<Camellia sasanqua>
Japanese name: SAZANKA Height: 5-6m
Habitat: forests and mountains of coastal areas, Southern part of Japan
Blooming season: October-December Flower size: 4-7cm
<Camellia lutchuensis>
Japanese name: HIMESAZANKA Height: 2-3m
Habitat: forests and mountains, subtropical area(Okinawa Islands)
Blooming season: December-February Flower size: 1.5-2cm

There are three indigenous camellias in Japan, Cammelia japonica,
Camellia sasanqua and Camellia lutchuensis.
It is said that the origin of the Japanese word TSUBAKI(Camellia
japonica) is TSUYABA (=glossy leaf) and KI (=tree).
Camellia japonica is indigenous to Japan and spread all over the world as
gardening plants after the 19th century. There are many camellia species
in East Asia. However, the two species were especiallyappreciated
because they are hardy and grow well in cold areas like Europe.
Apparently, European people came to appreciatecamellias very much. I
remember that a camellia flower appeared in the opera "La Traviata",
with the heroin giving a camellia flower to her lover.
In Japan, it is said that SAMURAI (warriors) people did not like camellia
flowers because they drop after blooming, like a war prisoner having his
head cut off. However, the fact is different, SAMURAI people loved
camellias and bred many cultivars in the Edo Period(1603-1867).
When I see foreign camellias, I notice that they are very decorative and
gorgeous. On the other hand, it seems that the Japanese tend to
appreciate more simple flowers like WABISUKE or WABISHIN groups ( see
the photos below). Flowers of WABISUKE or WABISHIN groups are often
used in decorations for Japanese tea ceremonies.
In the EDO period, TSUBAKI flowers were appreciated all over Japan and,
SHOGUN HIDETADA (the ruler of Japan, 1579-1632) was famous for
TSUBAKI being his favorite flower. The first camellia book "HYAKUCHIN
SHU" was published in 1630 and introduced 100 cultivars.

Camellia Websites
Iyo Camellia Society is very enthusiastic for introducing camellias to the public. This website is written partly in English. You can enjoy the images of a huge variety of Camellia flowers.
Mr. Novalis (nickname) is crazy about camellia flowers as well as German rock music band "Novalis". He has a collection of camellias and has visited camellia flower gardens all over Japan. (Japanese version only)
This website introduce you to camellias in Galicia, Spain. People have enjoyed growing camellias for long periods in Galicia. Plenty of information on camelias with beautiful photos. Exquisite! (Galician/Spanish/English)
All guide
of Camellias
in Japan
This is all guide of Camellias in Japan with photos and description
i2010 cultivars of Japonica and 217 cultivars of Sasanqua,
covering almost of all cultivars growing), cited from "The Color
guide book of all current cultivars of Japanese Camellias",
published by The Japanese Camellia Society. This site is created
by Dr. Yamaguchi of Ehime University.

Camellia japonica cultivars
Various types



















YUKITSUBAKI Group Cultivars
YUKITSUBAKI(Camellia japonica var. decumbens) is a variant of Camellia
japonica. This plant grows in heavy snow areas along the Sea of Japan. It
is said that YUKITSUBAKI has a variable DNA and it tends to produce
multipetal flowers.




WABISUKE and WABISHIN Group Cultivars
WABISUKE group indicates Camellia japonica cultivars of which flower
has reduced stamens. WABISUKE group generally has a small flower.
WABISHIN group indicates cultivars with small flowers. However people
mix up the namings and WABISHIN group too is often called WABISUKE

one of WABISHIN group cultivars

this cultivar is the origin of WABISUKE group

HIGO Group Cultivars
In the Edo Period, SAMURAI people living in HIGO(Kumamoto Prefecture
at the present) made unique cultivars which have an open flower with
showy stamens.

one of HIGO group cultivars

one of HIGO group camellias

Yellow Group Cultivars
The following cultivars are hybrids between Camellia japonica and
Chinese species Camellia chrysantha. Camellia chrysantha is a yellow
camellia which was found in Southwest China. This species has a small
yellow flower and is not hardy. Now, Japanese camellia breeders are
trying to breed hardy camellias with big and vivid yellow flowers by using
this species.

SHOKOU (= first yellow)
the first yellow hybrid between Camellia japonica and Camellia chrysantha

KOGANEYURI (= golden lily)
tubular flower

Cultivars with interesting leaves
The Japanese tend to appreciate plants with interesting leaves. There
have been cultivars with interesting leaf shapes and variegation since the
Edo Period

This leaf shape is called
KINGYOBA (= gold fish leaf).

*Variegated leaf is called BENTEN
or NISHIKIBA in Japanese Camellia

Fragrant Group Cultivars
Camellia lutchuensis has a strongest fragrance in camellias. However, this
species has a small flower and is not so hardy. Japanese camellia
breeders are trying to breed fragrant hardy camellias which have bigger
flowers by using this species.

Camellia lutchuensis

a hybrid between
Camellia japonica and
Camellia lutchuensis

Hybrids with Camellia sinensis
Camellia sinensis is indigenous to South China. It is said that this species
was brought to Japan more than 800 years and has been utilized as a
material of Japanese green tea. Camellia sinensis blooms in September-
October. In recent years, several Camellia hybrids were bred by using
Camellia sinensis. Hybrids with Camellia sinensis are unique with their long
blooming period, most of them bloom for more than a half year (September
-March) though they show a few flowers at the same time.

Camellia sinensis

a hybrid between
Camellia japonica var. decumbens
and Camellia sinensis

Camellia sasanqua cultivars
Camellia sasanqua blooms from late autumn to winter, so it is a precious
tree. In the case of Camellia japonica, a whole flower drops off from the
tree after blooming. However Camellia sasanqua is different because each
petal drops off after blooming.

Camellia sasanqua species




KANTSUBAKI group cultivars
Actually, there are many hybrids between Camellia japonica and Camellia
sasanqua, so now it is difficult to tell the difference between the species.
The origin of KANTSUBAKI group is not clear. Cultivars of This group
bloom December-February although usual Camellia sasanqua cultivars
bloom October-December.


a variant of SHISHIGASHIRA

YUME, new hybrid
Camellia yuhsienensis(Chinese species)

HARUSAZANKA group cultivars
HARUSAZANKA group is a hybrid between Camellia japonica and
Camellia sasanqua. Cultivars of this group have a long blooming period,
November-March. Flower size is smaller than Camellia japonica cultivars



Camellia Bonsai
The Japanese also enjoy camellias as a botted bonsai plant.

Camellia Bonsai

Camellia Oil
Berries of Camellia japonica are processed into oil and utilised as hair oil.
This oil is called TSUBAKI ABURA (= Camellia oil), and its ingredient is
similar to oils in human skin, very healthy. Japanese SUMO wrestlers
plaster their hair with TSUBAKI ABURA for making their hair style.

Berry of Camellia japonica


The background of this page is a traditional pattern
for KIMONO (Japanese costume)