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An evergreen shrub with lance-shaped, short-stalked leaves up to 41⁄2 in. in length, and about one-third as wide; glabrous, dull green, shallowly toothed. Flowers fragrant, full white, 1 to 11⁄2 in. across; one to three of them produced in the leaf-axils on stalks 1⁄2 in. long. Stamens very numerous, with yellow anthers.
Native of Yunnan, where it was found wild by Forrest and Rock at 7,000 to 9,000 ft altitude, the tea plant has been cultivated by the Chinese from time immemorial. It was introduced from China into Java and India about 1835 and into Ceylon a little later. In S. China, Indochina, Siam, Burma, and Assam, typical C. sinensis is replaced by a variety which grows into a tree over 50 ft high and has longer, thinner bluntly acuminate leaves. This is var. assamica (Mast.) Kitamura, and as it comes from tropical regions it is more suitable for growing in countries like Assam and Ceylon than the Chinese plant, much of the tea from these countries being in fact from var. assamica or its hybrids.