Stewartia pseudocamellia

Scientific name: Stewartia pseudocamellia

Author: Maxim.

Common name: Japanese Stewartia

Family: Theaceae


Stewartia pseudocamellia   


Soak up the sublime vista of distant hills from the Visitor Centre deck and observe our plant of the week at the same time. If you glance to the left or westward from the deck you will see, Stewartia pseudocamellia, vibrant-of-leaf, standing at the edge of the Terrace Garden bed 58. Another specimen can be found above the path through the Residence Garden.

The plant family Theaceae, to which Camellia sinensis ‘the tea plant’ belongs, contains several genera, some members of which surround this plant. There are several camellia plants, two just to the left, with their glossy dark green leaves. Schima wallichii is the tall, green-leaved tree behind and slightly left of the Japanese Stewartia and a glance behind you toward the Visitor Centre, will reveal Gordonia axillaris, usually with fallen ‘camellia like’ flowers lying beneath it.

The genus Stewartia, known as mountain camellias, contains about nine species of deciduous trees from eastern North America and eastern Asia. The name commemorates, somewhat obscurely, John Stuart, Earl of Bute (1713-1792) and you may find the spelling ‘Stuartia’ in some texts. John Stuart served briefly as Prime Minister of England (1762-1763), was a ‘gifted amateur botanist’ and was chief adviser to Augusta, Princess Dowager of Wales, when she founded the Botanic Garden at Kew, in 1759-1760. 

Moist woodlands in the hills of Nepal, India, Sikkim, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and south-western China are home to this 20m tree. A semi-shaded habitat, ensuring cool roots and a fertile lime-free soil suit most members of this family.