Camellia Meaning and Symbolism


Camellia Flower Story & Origins

The camellia is native to China where it has a rich national history, particularly in the southwest region. Here, camellia flowers grow wild and during the early spring entire fields will be covered in colorful camellias. Camellias are also a highly respected flower in Japan, and is often referred to as the Japanese rose.

Camellia Flower Meanings

In China, the camellia represents the union between two lovers. The delicately layered petals represent the woman, and the calyx (the green leafy part of the stem that holds the petals together) represents the man who protects her. The two components are joined together, even after death. Typically when the petals of a flower fall off, the calyx will stay intact. With camellias however, the calyx and petals fall away together, which is why the camellia also represents eternal love or long-lasting devotion.

In Latin, camellia means “helper to the priest” and was named after the Jesuit botanist, Georg Joseph Kamel who practiced pharmaceutical botany in the late 17th century. He is known for his work in the Philippines, where he lived for more than 20 years dedicating his life to discovering new treatments from native plant sources. Although there is no record of Kamel working with camellias, the flower was named after him by Carl Linnaeus to commemorate his many contributions to the world of pharmacy.

Camellia Flower Symbolism & Colors

Generally, camellia flowers symbolize love, affection, and admiration. Camellia flowers are available in white, pink and red with each color having its own unique symbolism.

  • White camellias symbolize adoration and is given to someone who is well-liked.

  • Pink camellias symbolize a longing for someone and is given to someone who is missed.

  • Red camellias symbolize love, passion, and deep desire.


Camellia Flower Cultural Significance

The white camellia flower holds a special significance in the iconic novel, To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose is an ornery old lady who is known for her racism and intolerance. One day, Jem cuts off all the camellias from her garden out of frustration and anger towards her. Upon learning of his son’s behavior, Atticus forces Jem to apologize and sends him to her home everyday to read to her.

From this experience, Jem realized that Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose was battling her own demons — her morphine addiction. She was able to kick the habit with Jem’s company and when she passed away, she gave Jem a box with a white camellia inside.

The camellia represents understanding and patience. After Jem has cut off all of her camellia flowers, Mrs. Dubose reminds him that in order to kill the plant one must “pull it up by the roots.” This particular quote indicates that deep-rooted issues such as racism and intolerance can not be solved with surface-level tactics like violence and rebellion. Instead, it is through compassion that one can achieve the understanding to really make a change.


Camellia Flower Facts

  • The camellia became the official state flower of Alabama in 1959.

  • Camellias represent the number 11.

  • Camellia japonica is one of the most popular camellia species and is also known in Japan as the tsubaki flower.

  • There are over 40,000 registered camellia cultivars.

Camellia Flower Uses

Known as the tea camellia, Camellia sinensis is used to make most green and black teas. The leaves and petals of the camellia plant are dried and are known for their high levels of caffeine. Green tea is made by drying the camellia leaves and black tea is made from the same process, with an added fermentation stage. Green tea in particular is known for its antioxidants which have many health benefits including lowering cholesterol, reducing heart disease, and boosting metabolism.


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