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Other Distinguishing Features
Camellia Japonica was native to Japan in two forms: the Yabutsubaki ヤブツバキ, a taller tree that grows at lower and milder elevations, and the Yukitsubaki ユキツバキ, a more prone tree found at higher and colder elevations. At some point the two types interbred to create what is known as Yukibatatsubaki ユキバタツバキ. With the natural and cultivated hybridization of these orginal stocks, many forms of camellia flourished.

It must be mentioned there are two other Camellia species, Camellia sinensis and Camellia sasanqua. Camellia sinensis refers to the plant from which tea leaves are obtained, any type of black tea, green tea, and matcha. Camellia sasanqua is a low bush, closely related to sinensis. Due to the close relation, sasanqua are avoided as tea flowers. They may be identified by the fact that when their flowers fall, it is petal by petal, whereas Camellia japonica flowers fall as a unit.

In addition to the shape of buds and blooms, and the coloration of the petals, features of the stamens and the shape, color, and edge of the leaves are distinct among cultivars. A few examples are provided below.


閉じ芯 Tojishin Closed Stamen
The anthers and filaments are tightly enclosed in a pointed shape

先細り Sakibosori Narrow Tip
The head of the stamen tapers. Found mostly in the Yukitsubaki on the Tokai Eastern Seaboard. Only about three cultivars display this kind of stamen, which are called Tsumami [pinched] Yukitsubaki.

筒 Tsutsu Cylindrical
Regular diameter without variation. In this type, if the stamens are pure white, they are much appreciated.

先太り Sakibutori Wide Tip
Variation on the tsutsu shape of stamen where the head widens.

ユ キ芯 Yukishin Snow Camellia Stamen
Particular to the Yukitsubaki. The filaments are very thin, and both filaments and anthers are a deep yellow color. Both long and short filaments mingle together.

輪芯 Washin Circle Stamen
The stamens are all thick and short, and line up regularly in a ring.

梅 芯 Baishin Plum Stamen
Especially typical of the Higo variety of Camellia. Thick and long filaments radiate outward over the entire center of the flower. Camellias originating from Kumamoto have especially thick filaments, which are sometimes called moyashi [bean sprout] stamens.

侘芯 Wabishin Wabi Stamen
The stamens of both Yabutsubaki and Yukitsubaki mutate easily within the single petal variety. As the stamen distorts, the flower itself becomes smaller, and its blooming time earlier.


Leaves and flowers have an integral relationship. Leaves give life to the flowers. For camellia trees, the correlation between the shape of the leaf and the shape of the flower is especially noticeable. For example, the plump, cup-blooming Kamo Hon'ami has round and wide leaves. The diminutive, funnel-blooming Ikkyū has very narrow and small leaves. Such complementarity highlights the beauty of the flower. The connection is so close it may almost be said that even without the presence of the flower, one could identify a camellia by its leaf alone.

By all means, go to your garden and look closely at the camellia leaves. Avoid the delicate leaves in the shade. Look for sturdy branches and then to the third leaf from the tip. The following criteria are what to notice.

1. The shape of the leaf

a. 広楕円形

Hiro daenkei

Wide Elliptical


b. 楕円形




c. 長楕円形

Naga daenkei

Long Elliptical


d. 卵状楕円形

Ranjō daenkei

Oval Elliptical


e. 倒卵状

Sakasa ranjō

Inverted Oval


f. 技針形


Needle shape


2. The curvature of the leaf

a. 平坦




b. 葉縁が外曲

Hafuchiga Gaikyoku

Leaf edge bending outward


c. 波曲


Wave-like curve


d. 中折れ


Bending upwards from the middle


e. 反曲


Inverse bending

3. The veins of the leaf
Distinct, sunken, or raised. This is an important step in the appraisal of the leaf. For example, the net-like veins in the leaves of the Saga Camellia are strikingly sunken, while those of the Shiratama Camellia are shallow and indistinct.

4. The quality of serration on the leaf edge and of the stem
Is the serration of the leaf edge rough, fine, pointed, or barely noticeable. As for the stem which attaches to the branch, is it long or short? Another distinguishing characteristic between the Yabutsubaki and the Yukitsubaki is whether or not the stem has fine hairs on both sides.

Yabutsubaki Species of Camellia
The leaf edge is gently serrated in a wavelike pattern and is not pointed. The veins have a net-like pattern and are faint. The stem is long and hairless.


Yukitsubaki Species of Camellia
The veins also have a net-like pattern but are very clear and distinct. The serration of the leaf edge is sharp and pointed. The stem is short and edged with short hairs.

Outside Japan it is difficult to come by any of these many named varieties of camellia. The discussion above of all the distinguishing characteristics is not intended to imply one must collect rare species. Rather it is to alert the mind and the eye to the beauty of each camellia one encounters. Knowing to pay attention to the blooming form, the petal scenery, the interior stamens, the leaves, will greatly increase the pleasure one receives from the flower, whether as host or guest, and becomes a vocabulary with which to express appreciation of winter chabana. Numerous Japanese books illustrate the rich variety of blooming camellias. Looking through the book's photographs to try to identify a particular camellia growing nearby is great fun, and the name often adds a poetic dimension to discussion of winter chabana. It is enough to say, this camellia looks a great deal like the [for example, Showa Wabisuke] to me. We particularly recommend Tankosha Publishing's Nihon no Tsubaki Hana 日本の椿花 [new edition ISBN 978-4-473-03277-5]. Another good resource for those in North America looking for chanoyu camellias is Nuccio's Nurseries in Altadena, California. The printed catalogue contains many more varieties than those listed online and may be ordered there. Be prepared for the next winter season in the tearoom!


Painted camellia pictures by Nagai Sokei Sensei 永井宗圭 from No ni saku chabana zufu 野に咲く茶花図譜.

Line drawings by Sokei Miyamoto 宮本宗惠.



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