|Camellia, Middleton Place, Charleston, SC|
Plant Legends: Many centuries ago, the camellia hailed from Japan and China. In China, it was called the "Tea Flower." In Japan, it was called the "Tsubaki" and often was included in religious rituals, representing the divine. The Japanese also believed it was the flower that announced spring.I don't know how much of that is true but someone had to drink the first cuppa tea. The Middleton Place web site has more details on how the plant came to Charleston and why they have so many.
The Chinese, too, looked at the blossoms as sacred and planted camellias in the secret gardens of the Chinese emperors.
As much as the camellia was admired for its beauty, however, its early popularity was largely a matter of economics and culture.
One of the very early emperors of China had passed a decree ordering all water to be boiled as a sanitation measure. Supposedly, dried leaves from a tea camellia fell into his cup; the emperor, like millions of others who came after him, greatly enjoyed this drink, and the pleasure of "a cup of tea" was born.
Camellia sinensis (the tea camellia) was highly sought after by the Chinese, the Japanese and, soon after, by the British.
By 2737 BC, the Chinese were growing C. Sinensis. By the 17th century, tea had spread in popularity to Europe.
Although the tea camellia was highly desired for its prized leaves, its flowers are not the showstoppers of the Camellia japonica or the Camellia reticulata.