June 14, 2010

Stewartia pseudocamellia

Stewartia pseudocamellia, a camellia relative is hardy to at least zone 4. A very sub tropical looking tree, it remains a rarely seen tree in North America, but no longer rare, it can be found with little effort at better nurseries. Pricey perhaps, but then all good trees, are. I love the way the flowers drop off each day, and lay on the ground like fried eggs. Every evening, spent flowers tumble down to the ground at dusk. Some may think this habit an annoyingly messy one, but I sort of like it, imagining the forests in China and Korea, and how pretty their forest floors must look. Then again, I am hardly normal.
Oh, lovely Stewartia, a special genus found both in Asia and rarely a couple species native to the the south easters states, is safely my favorite tree. It's hard not to love a tree which looks good in all four seasons, muscular mottled branches in winter with pointed buds, brilliant autumn foliage, and flowers that bloom in summer that look like Camellia indeed.
Native to China, Korea  and Japan, Stewartia are in the Theaceae family, or the tea family, for we all should know that black and green tea comes from Camellia sinensis, one can clearly see the similarities between these two genus. A bit fussy to get established, Stewartia trees are so worth growing, that you should find no problem as long as you plant them young.  Five species are available in the trade now, with a few named forms. There are few well behaved decidous trees, but all Stewartia are about as sophisticated as one can get, with trees. Above,  a Chinese Timber Bamboo grows through our 15 year old specimen growing next to the house. Funny thing, last year it decided to take a year off from blooming, but this year, it is loaded with flowers.


  1. Anonymous9:09 AM

    It's such a beauty. I really groove on the trunk, branches and bark too. It never got established in my heavy, wet, then concrete-like clay. But when I see one, it does transport me to some imaginary, formal Japanese garden. For me, this little tree is just about as close to perfection as one can get! Thanks for a lovely post.


  2. Anonymous11:24 PM

    My 9 month old Stewardia was off to a slow start. It was bare until late May and just over the last few weeks it established many new green shoots starting from the bottom and edging upward every day. It was about 75% new growth and I returned home today from a barbecue to find my landscapers had butchered it. The cut off all the top shoots of the tree -crew cut style and cut many limbs including two primary limbs about halfway. These carrying limbs were both on the right side of the tree. It is a lopsided shrub now. My baby that I have been watching, watering, and fussing over is now a mutant. I am sick.
    I went to the landscaper’s home ( a dear family friend) crying and asked why? His response was he cut all the dead branches and this would establish new growth.
    From everything I have read, you don't cut primary branches, you don’t give haircuts (cutting the tops off), you don’t cut summer blooming trees in the summer just when they are about to bloom. All those “dead” branches were growing beautiful new shoots. The shape of the tree was lovely with wispy shaped branches. No more wispy branches... They are now blunt cut stalks. I am so upset… just beside myself over a tree. I can’t even look at it as it now is deformed. Sorry, I just needed to vent.

  3. That's so sad! I would be devastated. But I think it may be savable, since Stewartia respond well to pruning ( it is a popular bonsai subject). I would recommend that you cut the thickest stems back to near another branch or truck, and most likely they will heal over in an attractive scar, as in nature. As long as the overall effect is irregular, tip branched back to near other branching forks. I would imagine that before long, you won't notice. I often trim large branches off of ours for floral arrangements in winter, and for inclusion in winter evergreen displays for the holidays. and but the end of the following summer I can't notice them missing. All is not lost.

  4. Elizabeth8:37 AM

    I'd like to plant a five-foot stewartia in the following space: about six feet from house, between two garage windows six feet apart, with another window twenty feet up. Is this tree going to grow too large?
    Thank you!


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