The Tea family, botanically known as the Theaceae, has been represented at the Bartlett by some of our best known specimen trees. Our large and impressive specimen of Stewartia (Stewartia pseudocamellia) and our well known Franklinia (Franklinia alatamaha) are indeed both members of the Theaceae family, as is Camellia sinensis, the source of black tea.
Recent acquisitions have added to our collection of this fascinating, and showy family. Alongside our Champion Stewartia are five more members of the same genus, Stewartia sinensis, Stewartia rostrata, Stewartia monadelpha from Asia, and two additional specimens native to North America, Stewartia malacodendron and Stewartia ovata. Stewartia malacodendron, native from southern Virginia to Florida, west to Texas, is an exceptionally rare plant in the wild with designation as such in several states. Perhaps the most interesting member of the Family is the Franklinia. Discovered by some of America’s first botanists, John and William Bartram in 1765, the tree has not been seen in the wild since shortly thereafter, persisting only in cultivated collections originating from plants propagated by the Bartrams.
Two additional species, Gordonia lasianthus and Cleyera japonica are now a permanent part of our greenhouse collections. Gordonia lasianthus, or Loblolly Bay is a southeastern native but unfortunately not a big fan of the cold New England winters. Cleyera japonica is a subtropical species of Asia with small flowers in late winter.
Taking a walk past the front of our Silver Education Center visitors may notice our new specimen of the Oil Camellia, Camellia oleifera. This fairly hardy species was the first of many camellia species and varieties we will be trying in the future. Fall 2008 saw the plantings of several additional hardy camellias. The cultivar “Winters Hope” now provides late November blooms alongside the steps leading into the Center. One thing is for sure, with over 350 species, the Tea family is sure to provide us with many new plants to try out and enjoy at the Bartlett Arboretum.