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A genus of shrubs named in honour of Dr Clarke Abel, who first discovered A. chinensis whilst attached to Lord Amherst’s embassy to China in 1816-17. About half a score species are at present in cultivation, which come from China, Japan, the Himalaya, and Mexico. Leaves opposite, or in threes; corolla tubular to bell-shaped; calyx composed of two to five sepals, which remain long on the plants after the corolla has fallen; stamens four.
With two or three exceptions, the abelias are scarcely hardy enough to succeed in the average climate of the British Isles unless wall protection be given; but provided the situation is warm enough, they are not in any way difficult to cultivate. They like an open, loamy soil, and can very easily be increased by means of cuttings made of half-ripened wood in July; these should be placed in pots of sandy soil, and plunged in a frame where there is a little bottom heat.
A synopsis of the genus was provided by Rehder in Plantae Wilsoniae, Vol. 1, pp. 122-9 (1911). He divided it into two sections: the typical section, to which most of the cultivated species belong, and sect. Zabelia, in which the corollas have a narrow, tubular vase, abruptly widening into a salver-shaped limb (against funnel-campanulate in sect. Abelia), the petiole bases are swollen, concealing the buds, and the stem-nodes too are swollen (not so in sect. Abelia). See further below under A. triflora. This section was raised to the rank of genus by the Japanese botanist Makino in 1948 as Zabelia, with some fifteen species, and this genus is recognised in several modern works.