Yuletide Camellia sasanqua

Camellia sasanqua ‘Yuletide Red’ © Karen Andrews

Camellia sasanqua is a Camellia plant that you can find flowering during Advent. There is even an appropriately-named cultivar called ‘Yuletide Red’. It also comes in shades of white, pink or a two-toned combination. Its flowers announce the future springtime displays to look forward to.

Tea Oil

Camellia sasanqua. Alpsdake, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The Camellia belongs to the Theaceae or Tea family. Camellia sinensis is an economically important plant for tea production. Camellia japonica is well-known for its springtime flowers. Camellia sasanqua was prized for the tea oil expressed from its seeds. Lacquer workers used it to remove varnish traces from their hands and arms at the end of a working day. One of the oil’s constituents, sasanqua, has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. Its hard wood was also used for the handles of agricultural tools and charcoal.

Popular in Japan

Sasanqua Camellia or Christmas Camellia has been cultivated in Japan since the 1330s. It is called Sazanka, which means tea-plum blossoms. It is considered the quintessential winter flower in Japan. It forms a popular hedging plant. Look at the ground if you want to tell a Sazanka from a Camellia. Sazanka petals fall individually, whereas the complete flowerhead falls with Camellias. The Japanese treat Sazanka as a separate genus.

Children’s Song

The Sasanqua Camellia is considered the quintessential winter flower in Japan. Its beautiful flowers are symbols for the sad and vulnerable in Japanese poetry. They also appear in a famous Japanese children’s song about a winter bonfire:

Rough translation of the lyrics:

1) At the corner of a hedge-lined path there is a bon-fire going, burning fallen leaves.
Shall we warm our hands by it? Sure, let’s! A northern wind is blowing pii puu!

2) A path abloom with sazanka ! There is a bon-fire burning fallen leaves.
Shall we warm our hands by it? Sure, let’s! Our little hands are itchy from the frost!

3) A winter wind whips through the cold path, there’s a bon-fire, burning fallen leaves.
Shall we warm our hands by it? Sure, let’s ! Thinking about what to do as we walk along!

References and Further Reading

Copyright Note

Karen does not seek or receive any commercial interest or advantage from this blog. She is not promoting any business venture. She simply loves to share fascinating facts about plants. These pages illustrate her love of plants, botany, biodiversity, gardens and creative expression. There is always so much to learn about plant diversity. This blog is designed as a showcase for photography, commentary on plants and wildlife, gardens and other places visited, horticulture and related topics. Viewpoints are her own, not those of her employer.

© Karen Andrews 2018 onwards. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Karen Andrews and BotanyKaren.net with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

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