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Learn about the China tea plant ( camellia sinesis L.)

Camellia sinensis L. or the China tea plant is a big shrub, 1-2 m tall with many virgate stems arising from the base of the plant near the ground. Leaf hard, thick and leathery; surface matt, marginal veins indistinct and appear sunken in lamina. Blade elliptic with obtuse or broadly obtuse apex; base cuneate, margin bluntly serrulate to sinuate-serrulate with more or less incurved teeth, glabrous above and villose below when young, becoming sparsely villose as the leaf ages. Ultimately becoming glabrous. Young leaves garnet-brown through ox-blood to purple in colour. Petiole short, 3-7 mm long, stout, usually giving the leaf an erect pose.

Flowers are borne singly or in pairs in the cataphyllary axils. Pedicel 6-10 mm long, clavate, glabrous with 2-3 sub-opposite scars little below the middle, marking the position of caduceus bracteoles 2-5 mm long. Sepals 5-6 ,imbricate, persistent, leathery, ovate or orbicular, 3-6 mm long, glabrous, green petals 7-8, shallowly cup-shaped, 1.5-2 cm long, broad-oval to sub-orbicular, generally white sometimes with pale pink pigmentation. Stamen numerous, arranged in two whorls, inner ones shorter and fewer in number, outer longer and more numerous, 8-13 mm long, united at the base for a few mm with the corolla lobes. Ovary white, densely hairy, 3 locular, ovules 3-5 in each loculus, placentation axial. Style generally 3, sometimes up to 55, free for the greater part of their length, occasionally free up to the base of the ovary. Stigma apical. Capsule 1,2, or 3, coccate, containing 1 to 3 nearly spherical seeds, 10-15 mm in diameter.

On the basis of leaf sizes Sealy (1958) recognized two forms of C. sinensis (a) F. macrophylla (Sieb.) Kitamura, with leaves 4-14 cm long, 2-2.5 cm wide and (b) F. parvifolia (Miq.) Sealy, with leaves 5-1.6 cm long and 1-1.2 cm wide.

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