Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Camellia sinensis at CawCaw

It looks like a bit of spring but instead it was a crisp, fall day when this image of a tea plant (camellia sinensis) was taken at CawCaw Interpretive Center, a Charleston County park. Early in the twentieth century there were scattered attempts to grow tea commercially just south of Charleston. Today, at this former site the land has returned to forest but the tea has survived and naturalized.

The park is a beautiful slice of the Carolina low country with abandoned rice fields that are now fresh water marshes filled with alligators and birds or swamps now dark with trees and dwarf palmettos.

The tea grows on the higher, drier areas, sometimes just a single plant but other times as a hedge running through the woods. Flowering occurs in October and November on plants that are 4 to 5 feet tall. The forest above them is composed of oaks and spruce pines and allows a moderate amount of light to penetrate.

Caw Caw is a beautiful park developed as a nature reserve for walking among the diverse habitats that can occur in a small area. It is easily accessible and a true joy to walk.

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