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An evergreen shrub or small tree. Leaves shining dark green, 11⁄2 to 31⁄2 in. long, one-third to half as much wide, obovate or narrowly oval, with rounded teeth on the margin. Flowers 11⁄2 to 2 in. across, white in a wild state, pale pink to deep rose in cultivated varieties, of which the Japanese have raised a considerable number, some with double flowers.
Native of Japan, where it is perhaps the most popular of all camellias, it was not introduced into Europe until 1896, the plants grown as C. sasanqua before that date being forms of the related C. oleifera imported from China by East India Company’s captains in the period 1811–23. It flowers from autumn into early spring, and although quite as hardy in itself as C. japonica, it is more liable to have its flowers injured. It is therefore best grown on a wall, in a sunnier position than would be given to the japonica varieties. It thrives remarkably well in N. Italy, where bushes approaching 20 ft in height and not much less in diameter are of very close, dense habit. There is a large collection of sasanqua varieties in the gardens of the Villa Taranto on Lake Maggiore.
Several Japanese garden varieties have been introduced. Of these one of the best is ‘Narumi-gata’, with single flowers 4 in. across, white, tinged pink at the edges, opening October-November. It was given the Award of Merit in 1953 as C. sasanqua “var. oleifera”. The similar ‘Fukuzu-tsumi’ succeeds very well with N. G. Hadden at Porlock, Somerset. It flowers about a fortnight earlier.
It is probable that some cultivars at one time placed under C. sasanqua are really hybrids between it and C. japonica. The true C. sasanqua flowers in autumn and early winter, but in the putative hybrids the influence of C. japonica delays the flowering until the new year. The correct name for such hybrids is probably C. × vernalis (Makino) Makino.
C. hiemalis Nakai, described in 1940 from a plant cultivated in Japan, may also be of this parentage, though Chang in his monograph recognises it as a Chinese species, placing it next to C. pittardii. It may be that it reached China from Japan and not the other way about (Bartholomew in op. cit., p. 5).