Camellia is a flower of the Theaceae family. Camellias have been known for centuries in the Orient. Camellia sinensis, the “common tea plant”, was used as a beverage (tea) by the Chinese as early as 500 B.C. Tea was a rare commodity in Japan during the Tang Dynasty (618 – 905 A.D.) and as such the elaborate tea ceremony developed for the royalty and elite. Tea is thought to have come to England in the late 16th or early 17th century brought by traders who traveled to the Orient in search of silks and spices and was considered so valuable that it was kept locked in silver tea caddies or boxes in the homes of the wealthy only.
It is thought that the camellia first came to Portugal in the first half of the 16th century. The first species of camellia to enter the United States was the tea plant in the form of seed. Camellia japonica plants were imported from England in 1797 or 1798 by John Stevens of Hoboken, New Jersey and became popular in the Northeast as greenhouse plants. Camellias gained in popularity and by 1920 Sacramento was named “Camellia City”. Camellias were named in posthumous honor of George Joseph Kamel by Carolus Linnaeus, the Swedish botanist who developed the binomial system of naming plants that is still in use today. Kamel, whose name in Latin was Camellus, was a Jesuit priest who served as a missionary to the Philippines.
In 1945 the American Camellia Society was formed. It has now grown to 4000 members in 44 states and 22 foreign countries with a permanent Headquarters in Fort Valley, Georgia.
LA TRAVIATA by Giuseppe Verdi is based on a play by Alexandre Dumas called LA DAME AUX CAMELIAS It served as a source of inspiration to the composer Verdi; which resulted in the opera ‘La Triviata’.