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E Naturalized Photo: Abhijeet Das
Common name: Sasankwa, Sasankwa Camelia, Sasanka
Botanical name: Camellia sasanqua    Family: Theaceae (Tea family)
Synonyms: Thea sasanqua, Sasanqua vulgaris, Sasanqua odorata

Sasankwa is a densely branched, pyramidal to oval-rounded, tree-like, evergreen shrub that typically grows to 6-10 ft tall. Lustrous, narrow-oval to obovate, dark green leaves, up to 7 cm long, are wedge-shaped and hairy on the midrib with rounded marginal teeth and velvet-hairy leaf-stalks. Stems are covered with significant velvet-hairs. White to pale pink, 6-8 petaled, mildly fragrant flowers, 5-7 cm across, each having a central mass of bright yellow-anthered stamens, bloom late summer to early winter depending on local climate. Petals fall after several days but stamens remain, with additional flowers continuing to open in succession over a period of 4-6 weeks. Flowers are followed by small rounded fruits. Fruit is a smooth and shiny capsule, up to 2 cm long. Sasankwa has a long history of cultivation in Japan for practical rather than decorative reasons. The leaves are used to make tea while the seeds or nuts are used to make tea seed oil, which is used for lighting, lubrication, cooking and cosmetic purposes. Tea oil has a higher calorific content than any other edible oil available naturally in Japan. Sasankwa is native to Japan, cultivated and naturalized in NE India, Korea, Laos, Vietnam.

Identification credit: Abhijeet Das Photographed in Darjeeling, West Bengal.

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