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Shrub or tree 1.5–5(–13) m. Branchlets greyish brown, densely grey-pubescent. Leaves thin and leathery or rigidly leathery, 5–7 × 1.5–3.5 cm, oblong to elliptic, upper surface dark green and hairy along the midrib, lower surface pale green, sparsely hairy or glabrous, six to eight secondary veins on each side of the midrib, margins minutely serrate, apex acute, acuminate or caudate; petiole 0.3–0.7 cm long, densely pubescent. Flowers axillary, solitary or paired, subsessile. Bracteoles/sepals seven to nine, caducous, slightly pubescent to glabrous outside; petals five to eight, white, obovate to ovate, 0.8–1.5 cm long, apex emarginate; stamens numerous, 0.6–1 cm long; ovary white-tomentose. Capsule subglobose to globose or pyriform, 1.4–2.5 cm diameter, composed of a single segment with a single seed. Flowering November to December, fruiting September to October of the following year (China). Ming & Bartholomew 2007. Distribution BHUTAN ; CAMBODIA; CHINA: Guangdong, Guangxi, Hainan, Yunnan; INDIA: Assam, Manipur, Nagaland, Sikkim; LAOS; MYANMAR; NEPAL; THAILAND; VIETNAM. Habitat Forest thickets between 300 and 2000(–3100) m asl. USDA Hardiness Zone 8–9 (?). Conservation status Not evaluated. Illustration Chang & Bartholomew 1984, Trehane 2007; NT195. Cross-reference S136.
The oil expressed from the seed of Camellia kissii, traditionally known as an emollient, is now used in a broad range of skin- and haircare products, and the plant is widely cultivated for this purpose. It is however of relatively little horticultural merit, its most interesting feature being the greenish tint in the white or creamy flowers. This can be transmitted to its hybrids: for example, ‘Butter-mint’, which derives from a cross with C. sasanqua (Gao et al. 2005). It is in cultivation in specialist collections in Europe and North America.