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Shrub or tree 2–7 m. Branchlets stout, greyish yellow to greyish brown, glabrous. Leaves leathery, 8–15 × 3–5.5 cm, elliptic to oblong, upper surface dark green, shiny, glabrous, lower surface pale green with brown glandular dots, 10 or more secondary veins on each side of the midrib, margins minutely serrate, apex acuminate; petiole 0.6–1 cm long, glabrous. Flowers axillary or subterminal, solitary or paired, 2–3.5 cm diameter, subsessile. Bracteoles/sepals 9–10, leathery, 0.2–1 cm long, yellow-tomentose; petals 7–10, white, obovate, 1.5– 2 cm long, apex rounded; stamens numerous, ~1.5 cm long; ovary tomentose. Capsule globose to subglobose, 2–4 cm diameter, greyish, with rough, flaky surface, splitting via three valves, each section holding two to five seeds, central column persistent. Flowering November to December, fruiting September to October of following year (China). Ming & Bartholomew 2007. Distribution CHINA: Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi, Hainan, southern Hunan, southern Jiangxi; LAOS; TAIWAN; VIETNAM. Habitat Forest between 100 and 1000 m asl. USDA Hardiness Zone 8–9. Conservation status Not evaluated. Illustration Chang & Bartholomew 1984.
For the curious-minded, the specific epithet furfuracea is derived from the Latin term furfuraceus, defined by W.T. Stearn (1983) as ‘scurfy, covered with bran-like scales or powder’ – as perhaps a tongue after a heavy drinking session might be, but in this case referring to the texture of the fruits, whose brown skin is rough and flaky. As a tree Camellia furfuracea can achieve 10 m and has handsome large leaves, but its flowers are small and inconspicuous. It is in cultivation in the United States, but its hardiness has yet to be fully assessed (Camellia Forest Nursery 2007–2008). As it is a relatively southern species, provenances should be selected with care.