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Shrub or tree 1–6(–8) m. Branchlets greyish brown, densely pubescent. Leaves leathery, 2–7 × 1–2.5 cm, elliptic to ovate or oblong, upper surface dark green and slightly hairy along the midrib, lower surface pale green and sparsely pubescent with dense indumentum along the midrib, secondary veins obscured, margins minutely serrate, apex broadly obtuse to bluntly acute or acuminate; petiole 0.2–0.4 cm long, densely pubescent. Flowers axillary, solitary or paired, 1.5–2.5 cm diameter; pedicel 0.2–0.45 cm long. Bracteoles three to four, persistent, 0.1–0.2 cm long, outside glabrous; calyx five-lobed, outside glab rous; petals five (to six), white, occasionally pink in bud, obovate, 0.6–1.5 cm long, apex rounded to retuse; stamens numerous, 0.9–1.2 cm long; ovary glabrous. Capsule ovoid, 1.2–1.5 cm diameter, leathery, usually with a single seed. Flowering November to May, fruiting September to October (China). Ming & Bartholomew 2007. Distribution CHINA: Yunnan; VIETNAM. Habitat Forests and thickets, between (1200–)1600 and 2900(–3200) m asl. USDA Hardiness Zone 8–9. Conservation status Not evaluated. Illustration Chang & Bartholomew 1984; NT193. Taxonomic note Three varieties of C. forrestii are differentiated primarily on the basis of small differences in the shape and size of the sepals.
Camellia forrestii has been in cultivation for many years but has not achieved wide recognition, perhaps because it is rather tender, apparently surviving temperatures only down to –7 ºC (Gao et al. 2005). In the wild it is said to be a magnificent species, flowering profusely. The flowers are white and rather small but are produced in large numbers on each shoot to give this fine effect. The cluster-flowering habit is transmitted to its hybrids (Gao et al. 2005). It is cultivated in the milder parts of our area.