Camellia

The Camellia japonica L is now the official Alabama flower.

The Camellia japonica L is now the official Alabama flower.

Alabama became a state in 1819, but its choice of an official flower has seen a few changes. The present-day state flower, the camellia, is native to Asia, but its many cultivars now grow across the United States. Northern states rely on hothouses for growing these warmth-loving shrubs, but in Alabama, the camellia grows copiously, often unassisted.

Alabama Flower History

Alabama's first state flower was a common weed, the goldenrod. State representative, T.E. Martin made the goldenrod proposal in 1927, and the law passed in September of the same year. In 1959, the state flower was changed to the camellia after the goldenrod was officially classified as a weed. Flower growers developed many cultivars of the camellia -- so many that in 1999, the Alabama Legislature chose the Camellia japonica, L., specifically, as the state's official flower. Since the camellia isn't an Alabama native, the state also selected a state wildflower.

Flower Description

Camellias come in six classifications, ranging from single to the lush formal double. The Camellia japonica, L is of the double-bloom classification. This flower may be white or varying shades of pink, including pale and hot pinks. When opened, the blooms look similar to the rose, but the flower is wider and flatter and the tips of the petals curve inward. The camellia grows on dark, leafy green bushes that reach up to 10 feet in height and may spread 10 feet wide. The camellia has a clean, sweet scent that isn't cloying or overpowering for most.

Growing Camellias in Alabama

Alabama weather can be categorized as sub-tropical. The official weather reporting station at the Mobile Regional Airport says the average temperature for July is 81 degrees F, while the temps may reach as low as 50 degrees F in December. Add the high humidity, and you have the perfect "hothouse" environment for Alabama's state flower. Alabama's soil contains copious amounts of red clay, a good thing for growing Camellia japonica, L. The clay holds water in the soil, and this flower is a deep-root drinker.

Problems with Camellias

Like any showy flower, camellias tend to be temperamental. Camellias show their unhappiness by prematurely dropping blooms. If the plant receives too much sun or water or if pests have invaded, it "speaks" by shedding its flowers, even new buds. This "smart" plant has zero tolerance for poor growing conditions and may refuse to bloom until it detects better conditions. Despite this, camellias are Alabama's beloved flower, evidenced by their appearance in gardens and roadsides all over the southern state.

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