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A new catalog from Camellia Forest Nursery, Fall 2008 – my review

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.

Mieko Tanaka

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!
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