Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Camellia Fruit

Our fall-blooming camellia (Camellia sasanqua 'Winter's Joy') is loaded with buds this year, and I am eagerly awaiting the first sign of color. Last year, the first buds began to open in mid-to-late October. I always hope for an early bloom (or a late frost) so that I can enjoy the blooms before they get hit by a killing freeze.

While I was watering this camellia today (will this drought EVER end?), I noticed something I have not seen in the past: fruit. I had never heard of camellia bearing fruit (you experienced camellia growers out there probably have), so I looked it up on the internet. Sure enough, they sometimes do. Here's what the fruit (seed pods) look like.

This particular seed pod has already begun to ripen and has taken on a red color. Most others on this bush are still green. Apparently, if allowed to mature, these seed pods will burst open, exposing the seeds inside. 

Now, you are probably wondering whether these seed pods produce viable seeds. According to my research, the answer is yes, but since this camellia is a hybrid, the characteristics of the offspring are not predictable. Chances are, its offspring would not be as desirable as the parent plant. So I wondered if I should pick off these fruits so that the plant's energy would be redirected to the plant rather than these unwanted fruit. Some sites I found suggested that I should, but there are not a lot of these seed pods (a dozen or maybe a few more), and I wonder whether the plant would reap much benefit from my removing them. Besides, I'm curious to see how they develop. So I think I will leave these on the plant.

While researching the seed pods, I came across several sites that said some people like to remove some of the developing flower buds to increase the size of the remaining flowers. It seems that the plant must use a lot of energy to support many buds and if some those buds are removed, all that energy is directed to the remaining flowers. This makes sense and I've heard of people doing this with other flowers, for example, roses.
But these buds will be opening very soon so I wonder if it is too late for this strategy. It may be that the remaining bud would not have time to benefit from the additional energy available from removing the competing buds. Besides, I think I might enjoy having many small flowers more than a fewer number of large ones.

On the other hand, this camellia certainly has a lot of buds and it may be that simply removing a few would allow the others more physical room to spread out more. The scientist in me is curious. I think I will select a few bud clusters to experiment with, like the cluster on the left side of this picture. I'll chose a bud cluster like this one and remove all but one of the buds. Then I'll choose a second similarly-sized cluster of buds to use as the "control." It will be interesting to see if removing the competing buds results in any appreciable difference in the size of the bloom. Of course, I'll never know what would have happened if I had removed the competing buds when they first formed. Maybe that's an experiment for next year.

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