In a Nutshell:
* The Christmas Camellia ( Camellia sasanqua ) is a species of Camellia native to the evergreen coastal forests of southern Japan in Shikoku , and many other minor islands as far south as Okinawa . It is usually found growing up to an altitude of 900 metres.
* 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). In Japan, it is not considered to be a true Camellia as the Japanese call it Sazanka .
* 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, 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.
* C. sasanqua is valued in gardens for its handsome glossy green foliage, and fragrant single white flowers produced extremely early in the season - often as early as Christmas. Various cultivars have been selected, of which 'Crimson King', 'Hugh Evans' and 'Jean May' have gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit. more...
* The oil obtained from the seed is edible if it is refined. It is said to be equal in quality to olive oil. The leaves are mixed with tea to give it a pleasant aroma.
* A very ornamental plant, it is closely allied to C. oleifera.
* Stored seed should be pre-soaked for 24 hours in warm water and the hard covering around the micropyle should be filed down to leave a thin covering. It usually germinates in 1 - 3 months at 23°c. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in light shade in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions when they are more than 15cm tall and give them some protection from winter cold for their first year or three outdoors. more...