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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Sunday - September 21, 2008

From: Chesapeake, VA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Non-Natives, Seeds and Seeding
Title: Camellia seeds
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Hi Mr. Smarty Plants; I have a Camellia plant that has bulbs that look like they could be fruit. And when this bulb opened, four or five little nuts came out. Are they fruit or nuts and can they be eaten or used for something else. These plants flower in the fall. Thank you very much for your time.

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants’ expertise is limited to plant species native to North America, their habitats and cultivation.  There are two camellias native to North America, Stewartia malacodendron (silky camellia) and Stewartia ovata (mountain camellia), but I suspect that you are referring to either Camellia japonica (camellia) or  Camellia sasanqua (sasanqua camellia), both of which are native to China and Japan.

What you are referring to is the seed pod from last year's bloom—the structure shown in the lower left of this botanical drawing of Camellia japonica.  The little nuts are the seeds of the plant.  Mr. Smarty Plants certainly wouldn't recommend eating them even though these plants don't appear in the Poisonous Plants of North Carolina nor any of the other of our favorite toxic plant databases.  Since they are seeds, they have the potential to grow into new Camellia plants if you plant them.  However, since they are not native to North America, we really don't have any ready information about germination and propagation.  Mr. Smarty Plants recommends that you visit Tom Clothier's Garden Walk and Talk for information on germination and you can also search the internet for more information about seed germination and propagation.

 

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