camellia (kəmēlˈyə) [key] [for G. J. Kamel, a Moravian Jesuit missionary], any plant of the genus Camellia in the tea family, evergreen shrubs or small trees native to Asia but now cultivated extensively in warm climates and in greenhouses for their showy white, red, or variegated blossoms and glossy, dark-green foliage. The tea plant is Camellia sineusis. Several species yield oil from the seeds, e.g., the widely cultivated C. japonica (commonly called japonica) and C. sasanqua and, especially, the Asian C. oleifera, the source of tea-seed oil used in textile and soap manufacture and, when suitably refined, for cooking. C. oleifera has also been used to develop cold-hardy hybrid flowering camellias. Camellias are classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Theales, family Theaceae.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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