Monday, May 24, 2010

Silky Camellia, Virginia Stewartia

Stewartia malacodendron

The silky camellia, Stewartia malacodendron, is the "official" plant [quotes theirs] of the Ev-Henwood Nature Preserve near Wilmington, NC.  Ev-Henwood, rhymes with heavenwood,  is home to a wide range of native plants which grow in southern coastal environments. I made a trip there week before last and had the place completely to myself. Except for the flies. The signage around the preserve warns that nothing is done to control animals, and that includes millions of insects.  There are hundreds of skinks, too, and even an alligator - probably in that pond at the bottom of this post!   

Silky camellia, like true camellias, is a member of the tea family, Theaceae.  It is a native understory shrub which grows approximately ten to twelve feet tall. Niche Gardens, a native plant nursery near Chapel Hill, North Carolina sells it if you like those gorgeous purple and red stamens enough to buy one for your garden.  Their catalog references Mike Dirr's description of the plant.  He said it is "every gardener's dream plant - like the finest piece of art or sculpture."  It normally begins blooming around Mother's Day. It was an exciting discovery for me, because I had not known about the plant before I got to the preserve.  Now I have to have one!

Another Stewartia 
A Japanese version of Stewartia, Stewartia pseudocamellia, wears a Treasure Tree sign in the Elizabeth Lawrence garden in Charlotte.  It is a tree she was particularly fond of and wrote about in her books.  It is thought to be the largest of its type in North Carolina.  You can see a picture of the tree in bud on the garden's blog.

Elizabeth Lawrence Garden Blog
Ev-Henwood Nature Preserve
More of my photos from Ev-Henwood
Niche Gardens


  1. I have been told that the national champion of this S. malacodendron is not far from here, but no one will tell where it is. It is a carefully gaurded secret of several Master Gardeners who don't want anything to happen to it. I can't blame them.

  2. Les, I had a little concern about posting the location of a rare plant, but uncw included it in their website, so I hope it will be ok. Around here no one tells where the ladies slippers or Venus flytraps are.