Plant Collector – Camellia chrysantha

Indisputably yellow - Camellia chrysantha

Indisputably yellow - Camellia chrysantha

It is a camellia and it is indubitably yellow – bright yellow. Camellias don’t only come in pink, white and red. There was huge excitement in the west when the yellow camellias started to become available out of China in the early 1980s and they are certainly a curiosity though hardly great garden plants. Our specimen of C. chrysantha is now about 4 metres high and 4 metres wide. It took many years before it started to flower and even then, the flowers are few, far between and rather small. What is more, the flowers face downwards, well hidden amongst the foliage. I had to pick these to get a photo – don’t be thinking this is how they look on the bush. But even the fat yellow balls of buds are interesting. We have other yellow species which are not flowering yet, after about a decade! So these are plants for the curious collector and the plant breeder rather than the home gardener.

Nuccio’s Nursery in USA has apparently done a lot of work breeding new cultivars using the yellows but we have not seen any of the progeny in this country yet. That said, with its big, glossy, heavily textured leaves (called bullate foliage) C. chrysantha is a handsome plant in its own right for large gardens, even if it is shy on flowering. In this day and age, you are not likely to find it offered for sale in this country though it is around in camellia collections if you are determined to track it down. Grafting is the best option for getting your own plant. It does set seed, apparently, but we have never seen seed on our plant.

First published in the Waikato Times and reproduced here with their permission.