Camellia Forest Nursery is a nursery in North Carolina managed by Kai Mei and David Parks. Kai Mei is a wife of Dr. Clifford Parks (one of the authors of “Collected Species of the Genus Camellia”, 2005) and David Parks is their son.
The most interesting sasanqua hybrid offered this year is a true red ‘Mieko Tanaka’. Almost all previous “red” sasanquas were actually dark pinks (for example ‘Bonanza’ and ‘Reverend Ida’). The only previous true red was ‘Yuletide’, a chance seedling of Hiryu, originated in Nuccio’s Nurseries back in 1963.
The basic problem with red color is that wild C. sasanqua has no red (or pink) pigment – anthocyanin.
According to Dr. Takayuki Tanaka and other researchers, all pink sasanqua cultivars probably originated from an ancient C. japonica x sasanqua hybrid approximately 400 years ago almost definitely in Japan. The estimation 400 years comes from chloroplast genome DNA (cpDNA) analysis. Additionally, athocyanin chromatography demonstrates that all pink sasanquas (together with x hiemalis and x vernalis hybrids) share the form of anthocyanin with C. japonica and does not have pigments specific for C. reticulata and C. saluensis.
Based on this information, Dr. Tanaka was working on sasanqua-japonica hybridization and finally he developed a cultivar ‘Mieko Tanaka’ (C. x vernalis ‘Gaisen’ x C. japonica).
Plain Jane, O’Nishiki, Winter’s Rose and Winter’s Red Rider
Another important cultivar now available for sale in Camellia Forest Nursery is C. oleifera ‘Plain Jane’. This plain white flower has two distinctive quantities.
First of all, it is one of the most cold-hardy camellias, used by Dr. William Ackerman for his cold-hardiness hybridization program. For example, Dr. Ackerman claims that his cultivar ‘Winter’s Rose’ (C. oleifera ‘Plain Jane’ x C. x hiemalis ‘Otome’) can survive winter temperatures down to -15 F / -26 C.
Second, according to Dr. Ackerman, ‘Plain Jane’ may be used to create dwarf cultivars that are useful as patio and bonsai plants. Particularly, ‘Winter’s Rose’ is also a dwarf camellia. When Dr. Ackerman crossed ‘Plain Jane’ with C. sasanqua ‘O’Nishiki’, he got 3:1 mendelian ratio between normal and dwarf seedlings. This suggested that both ‘Plain Jane’ and ‘O’Nishiki’ carry heterozygous alleles of a dwarfiness gene. (Yes, I know that both plants are hexaploids – so an additional explanation from Dr. Ackerman is needed).
Luckily I got cuttings of ‘O’Nishiki’ last Summer from Mr. Garet Uemura who lives in Hawaii. Thank you, Mr. Uemura!
This year I also bought two more plants of another semi-dwarf Ackerman hybrid – ‘Winter’s Red Rider’ (C. ‘Shishigashira’ × C. oleifera ‘Lu Shan Snow’).
Here is a picture of ‘Winter’s Rose’ (C. oleifera ‘Plain Jane’ x C. x hiemalis ‘Otome’). William Ackerman claims that it survives very low winter temperatures – down to -15 F / -26 C:
1. Parks, C R, Griffiths, A, and Montgomery, K R. 1968. A possible origin of anthocyanin (red) pigmentation in the flowers of Camellia sasanqua. American Camellia Yearbook, 229–242.
2. Parks, C R, Kondo, K, and Swain, P. 1981. Phytochemical evidence for the genetic contamination of Camellia sasanqua. Thunberg Jap J Breed, 31, 168–182.
3. Jian-Bin LI, Fumio HASHIMOTO, Keiichi SHIMIZU and Yusuke SAKATA, “Anthocyanins from Red Flowers of Camellia reticulata LINDL.”, Biosci. Biotechnol. Biochem., Vol. 71, 2833-2836 (2007) .
4. Takayuki Tanaka, Takayuki Mizutani, Michio Shibata, Natsu Tanikawa and Clifford R. Parks. 2005. Cytogenetic Studies on the Origin of Camellia × vernalis. V. Estimation of the Seed Parent of C. × vernalis that Evolved about 400 Years Ago by cpDNA Analysis. J. Japan. Soc. Hort. Sci. 74: 464-468
5. Nobumine Tateishi, Yukio Ozaki and Hiroshi Okubo. Occurrence of Ploidy Variation in Camellia ×vernalis. Laboratory of Horticultural Science, Division of Agricultural Botany,Department of Plant Resources, Faculty of Agriculture,Kyushu University, Fukuoka 812–8581, Japan (Received November 2, 2006 and accepted December 1, 2006).
6. Murakami Yukie, Tanaka Jun’ichi, Yamaguchi Satoshi. Hybridity detection of cultivars of Camellia vernalis by RAPD markers. Breeding Research, vol. 1, page 169 (1999). In Japanese.
7. William L. Ackerman. Beyond the Camellia Belt: Breeding, Propagating, and Growing Cold-Hardy Camellias. Ball Publishing, 2007.