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Botanist's Lens: Tea, Taxa, and Technique

Tea Camellia, Camellia sinensis

Two’s company and three’s a crowd? Not even when - oddly enough - tea, taxa, and technique are squished together. Well, at least that’s a glimpse of what our past week looked like in the horticulture department.

Let’s start with Tea: It is ‘tea time’ in the gardens! One of the most fragrant and delicate Camellia is in bloom! C. sinensis is a tea Camellia, currently blooming in the woodland gardens. Creamy white blossoms fragile enough to last only few weeks are a treat to the olfactory senses. Flowers resemble Stewartia and Schimas.

Camellia sinesis (first two photos) and various Camellia blooms

Overall, we are having a fabulous bloom time for fall Camellias. With no sign of a cold snap, hitting the buds early on, we have been able to begin looking in depth into uninominal and binomial taxa.

What is a taxa? "Plant taxonomy or classification is the science of naming organisms and placing them in a hierarchical structure, each level being given a name (e.g., kingdom, division (phylum), class, order, family, genus, species). Taxonomic units at a given level are termed taxa (singular taxon). Names of higher order taxa (e.g., kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus) are uninominal (i.e., each name is a single word). Names of species are binomial (e.g., Magnolia virginiana), and names of taxa below the rank of species (e.g., subspecies, varieties) are comprised of three or more words (e.g., Panicum virgatum var. cubense)."