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Genus of over 80 species of small evergreen, rustic trees and shrubs, originating in India, China and Japan. The foliage is dark green, shiny, slightly leathery; during the cold months of the year they produce numerous fairly large flowers which are divided into various groups according to the shape (single, semi-double, anemone, peony, double formal and irregular double). The most widely cultivated is C. japonica, which blooms from January until the beginning of spring, together with C. sasanqua, with less showy flowers, which bloom in December-January. Cultivated for hundreds of years also in Europe, there are many hybrids. The flowers of the camellias are pink or white, but there are some red-flowered varieties and very few yellow-flowered varieties; generally the plants of camellia alternate years with exceptional blooms to years with few flowers. Camellias are very long-lived, and over the years they can reach considerable sizes, up to 6-7 meters in height.
Splendid specimens of camellia, also of very rare varieties, are found on Lake Maggiore and can be visited at Villa Taranto (Verbania). In fact, the first Camellias on Lake Maggiore should have arrived around 1820-1830.
Perhaps not everyone knows that the tea plant is Camellia sinensis. In addition, Camellia seeds produce an excellent oil used in cooking and cosmetics. In Japan, in the past, wood of excellent quality was made from its wood.
History and origins
In the East, camellias have been cultivated for centuries, both the flowering variety and the variety from which tea is made (Camellia sinensis). There are even legends about it dating back to 1500 B.C.
Flower camellias first came to Europe (and specifically England) in the 1700s. They began to spread throughout the West only at the end of that century, even in famous gardens such as that of the Royal Palace of Caserta and Malmaison (by Giuseppina, Napoleon's wife, already very fond of roses). The most widespread species, from the beginning, was the japonica. However, Sasanqua was also quite successful (appreciated for its early flowering and light perfume).