Tea-Oil Plant (Camellia oleifera)

Botanical Name : Camellia oleifera
Family :        Theaceae
Genus :          Camellia
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Ericales
Species: C. oleifera
Common NamesOil-seed Camellia, Tea Oil Camellia, or Lu Shan Snow Camellia

Habitat : E. Asia . It is widely distributed in China and is cultivated extensively there. It is found in forests, thickets, banks of streams and foothills at elevations of 500 to 1,300 metres. Woodland Garden; Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade; Shady Edge;

Description
An evergreen Shrub growing to 4m by 1.5m.
It is hardy to zone 8 and is frost tender. It is in leaf all year, in flower from October to April, and the seeds ripen in September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees.
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This species looks much similar to Camellia sasanqua except the dark green, evergreen leaves are a bit larger, three to five inches long and two to three inches wide. Single, white, fragrant flowers are produced in late winter, and this large shrub or small tree will reach a height of 16 to 20 feet with thin, upright, multiple trunks and branches. The crown forms a rounded or oval vase with lower branches removed

The plant prefers light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and requires well-drained soil. The plant prefers acid and neutral soils and can grow in very acid soil. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It requires moist soil.

Cultivation:
Prefers a woodland soil but thrives in a warm open well-drained loam if leafmould is added. A calcifuge plant, preferring a pH between 5 and 7. Prefers the partial shade of a light woodland. This species is not hardy in the colder areas of the country, it tolerates temperatures down to between -5 and -10°c. It succeeds on a wall at Kew and outdoors in milder areas. Prefers a wet summer and a cool but not very frosty dry winter. Plants are not very self-compatible, self-fertilized flowers produce few seeds and these are of low viability. This species has been cultivated for many centuries in China for the oil in its seed. A very ornamental plant, some named forms have been developed for their ornamental value. This species is closely related to C. sasanqua.

Propagation:
Seed – can be sown as soon as it is ripe in a greenhouse. Stored seed should be pre-soaked for 24 hours in warm water and the hard covering around the micropyle should be filed down to leave a thin covering. It usually germinates in 1 – 3 months at 23°c. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in light shade in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions when they are more than 15cm tall and give them some protection from winter cold for their first year or three outdoors. Cuttings of almost ripe wood, 10 – 15cm with a heel, August/September in a shaded frame. High percentage but slow. Cuttings of firm wood, 7 – 10cm with a heel, end of June in a frame. Keep in a cool greenhouse for the first year. Leaf-bud cuttings, July/August in a frame.


Edible Uses

Edible Uses: Oil.

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An oil obtained from the seed is used in cooking.

Uses
The seeds of Camellia sinensis and Camellia oleifera can be pressed to yield tea oil, a sweetish seasoning and cooking oil that should not be confused with tea tree oil, an essential oil that is used for medical and cosmetical purposes and originates from the leaves of a different plant. The seed oil can be used as treatment of ringworm. Tea-oil Camellia is commonly over 80% monounsaturated fat. As such, it reduces LDL (‘bad cholesterol’). Tea Oil is also known as “Tea Seed Oil” when sold as cooking oil in supermarkets throughout Australia, New Zealand and the United States.

It can also used in textile manufacture, soap making and as an illuminant. Camellia oil is also traditionally used to protect Japanese woodworking tools and cutlery from corrosion and is currently sold for that purpose

Medicinal Actions &  Uses
Anthelmintic.
The seed oil is used in the treatment of ringworm.

Other Uses
Dye; Insecticide; Oil.

A non-drying oil is obtained from the seed – used in textile manufacture, soap making and as an illuminant. The oil consists mainly of olein. It is not subject to polymerize or oxidize, nor does it form solids at low temperatures. A grey dye is obtained from the pink or red petals. The seed cake has insecticidal activity.


Resources:

http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Camellia+oleifera
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camellia_oleifera
http://www.asianflora.com/Theaceae/Camellia-oleifera.htm

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