Camellia (tsubaki)

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Camellia (tsubaki)

***** Location: Japan, worldwide
***** Season: Spring, others see below
***** Category: Plant


Camellia : tsubaki つばき 椿
Camellia japonica

Hiroshige : Sparrows and camellias in snow

white camellia : shirotsubaki 白椿 (しろつばき)
red camellia : benitsubaki 紅椿(べにつばき)

camellia with simple petals : hitoe tsubaki 一重椿(ひとえつばき)
camellia with multiple petals : yaetsubaki 八重椿

camellia in the bushes : yabu-tsubaki 藪椿
..... otome tsubaki 乙女椿(おとめつばき)
large camellia: ootsubaki 大椿

camellia in the mountains : yama tsubaki 山椿(やまつばき)
camellia in snow : yuki tsubaki 雪椿(ゆきつばき)

bud of camellia like a ball: tamatsubaki 玉椿
..... tsuratsura tsubaki つらつら椿(つらつらつばき)

fallen blossom of camellia: ochitsubaki 落椿 (おちつばき)
scattering blossom of camellia : chiri tsubaki 散椿(ちりつばき)

camellia in the evening : yuutsubaki 夕椿

. Tsubaki mochi, tsubakimochi 椿餅 (つばきもち)
camellia rice cakes .

..... tsubaimochi, tsubai mochi つばいもち【椿餅】
..... tsubai mochii つばいもちい

Even the Chinese character expresses SPRING, being composed of a tree on the left side and the character for spring on the right. This flower, which grows almost like a weed everywhere, has already been sung about in the Manyoo-Shuu 万葉集 poetry collection.
The fallen halfopen flowers (ochitsubaki) are quite a sight under a large tree. On the way to our local temple they look like a red carpet layed out for the gods to tread.

Another name is "Sazanka" 山茶花、literally meaning the flower of the mountain tea plant. ''Camellia Sasanqua'' in Latin.
This is a kigo for winter, see below.

Gabi Greve

The Camellia japonicas bloom in early spring. The sasanquas bloom in fall and grow in the mountain area of the west side region in Japan. This species is made up of a large number of varieties (running into the hundreds) and colors. The japonicas do not smell, but some sasanqua smells. In general, it is said that the japonica's blooms drop, but the sasanqua's blooms shatter.

A great link with many pictures of Japanese camellia, in English.

Long list with Camellia Pictures:



Izu Oshima, an island of Japan, is famous for its cultivation of camellia and has an annual
Camellia Festival, Tsubaki Matsuri from January to March
Famous products made of tsubaki are oil preparations for your skin or for cooking.


Camellias are evergreen shrubs, bloom in autumn and winter, and very popular because of their great beauty because of their flowers, form and also foliage. They grow in a habit form, have glossy leaves and exquisitve form. Most Camellias at first were imported from Europe but now are grown in gardens from southeastern Virginia thru the Carolinas to Florida an along the Gulf Coast and even along the Pacific coast.
They can also be grown in the house or outside.

Worldwide use

The famous Pillnitz-Kamelie
D er Camelienbaum kam im Jahre 1739 von Japan nach Pillnitz. Stammumfang 150 cm. Höhe 7 m. Sein Unterhalt kostet jährlich ca. 800 M.
This famous tree is said to have been a gift from Japan. When I saw it a few years ago, it was inside a huge hothouse (for an enormous amount of money) and is treated like royalty itself.
Gabi Greve

See more of this fascinating tree here:


a German site for Camellias (has an English Version)

an Italian website on the 'Higo' Camellia

legends and stories

Things found on the way

. tsubaki no hana 椿の花 camellia blossom art motives .


Hoshino Tsubaki 星野 椿
A Haiku Life


La Traviata, Tsubaki-Hime, Princess Tsubaki 椿姫
La Traviata ... Reference


fading light-
the scent of



One day a monk asked Onitsura about the essence of haiku.
Here is his answer :

teizen ni shiroku saitaru tsubaki kana .. .. .. Onitsura

In the garden
Whitely blooming
The camellia

in the front garden
the camellia tree blossoms
all in white . . .

(Tr. Gabi Greve)

The cut marker KANA is at the end of line 3.

. Ueshima Onitsura 上島鬼貫 .


kita hama no suna yoke tsubaki saki ni keri

North Beach's
sand-barrier camellias
in bloom

haru zo tote shibu-shibu sakushi tsubaki kana

yet it blooms reluctantly...
the camellia

Find more by Kobayashi Issa


hi no me minu fuyu no tsubaki no saki ni keri

without seeing sunlight
the winter camellia

Tr. David Lanoue

hi no me o miru 日の目を見る fig. "see the light of day"
to be realized and recognized, to be in the spotlight


winter camellia; a walk around the temple

One-line haiku by Chibi


a soft glow of moonlight
on the camellias

hortensia anderson, August 2006

Related words

tsubaki patterns

***** . tsubaki sasu 椿挿す (つばきさす) to graft camellias
..... sashitsubaki 挿椿(さしつばき) grafted camellia
kigo for mid-summer

Planting camellias from a cut branch is best done during the rainy season.


kigo for late summer

shara no hana 沙羅の花 flowers of the Shara tree

sarasooju 沙羅双樹 Shara tree、sal tree, saul tree
from the フタバガキ family of plants.

it is also called "white tsubaki" 白椿


***** Nuts (fruit) of camellia (tsubaki no mi 椿の実)
kigo for autumn

At Oshima Island, the local children picking up the camellia nuts. Later, oil is pressed from the nuts. The oil tsubaki abura 椿油, is used for cooking or cosmetics.


***** Winter Camellia, sasanka 山茶花

small camellia, kotsubaki 小椿
Princess Camellia, hime-tsubaki 姫椿
kigo for early winter


kigo for all winter

kantsubaki, kan tsubaki 寒椿 (かんつばき)
camellia in the cold
fuyu tsubaki 冬椿(ふゆつばき)"winter camellia"
hayazaki no tsubaki 早咲の椿(はやざきのつばき)
early blossoming camellia

wabisuke 侘助 (わびすけ) Wabisuke camellia
Camellia wabisuke

.................................. Sasanka 山茶花

kantsubaki kuroki hotoke ni te mukeba ya

winter camellia
I wish I could offer it
to the sooty Buddha

Masaoka Shiki


朝焼けや凍てし蕾の和らげり .. .. (Tr. 畑 毅)

early morning sun -
a frozen bud
thaws into life

..... ..... Morgensonne -
..... ..... eine gefrorene Knospe
..... ..... taut ins Leben

My Sasanka tree is in full bloom now, with early December morning frost doing no harm but enhancing the beauty.

- Gabi Greve -




Gabi Greve said...

summer tsubaki, natsu tsubaki 夏椿
kigo for summer.

also shara no hana, sarasooju 沙羅双樹

shara blossoms
with morning rain

Etsuko Yanagibori



Gabi Greve said...

. Tsubaki in Ohaga, January 2006 .

Unknown said...



Gabi Greve said...

Tsubaki (Camellia)
by Linda Inoki, JT February 2007

Putting in the water,
The vase received
The camellia

By Onitsura (1660-1738),
quoted in "Haiku" by R. H. Blyth (Hokuseido Press).


Gabi Greve said...

Gabi Greve about

 Tsubaki Sanjuro, Tsubaki Sanjuuroo 椿三十郎
Translating Japanese Names

Narayanan Raghunathan said...

sunlight trickles
into a pink camellia ~
an ant on the way

Gabi Greve - Basho archives said...

Matsuo Basho -

ha ni somuku / tsubaki no hana ya / yoso gokoro

この槌のむかし椿か梅の木か kono tsuchi no / mukashi tsubaki ka / ume no ki ka

uchi yorite / hana ire sagure / ume tsubaki

uguisu no / kasa otoshitaru / tsubaki kana

ume tsubaki haya-zaki homen Hobi no sato .

Matsuo Basho - tsubaki

Gabi Greve - Basho archives said...

Matsuo Basho

ha ni somuku tsubaki no hana ya yosogokoro

the camellia blossom
goes against the leaf -

Written after 貞亨元年, Basho age 41 or later

yoso gokoro, yoso-gokoro ... the heart goes astray . . .

Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

tarumi uke ibotori Fudoo kan tsubaki

I get some water
from Ibotori Fudo Sama -
camellia in the cold

孝子 Takako
イボ取り不動尊 Ibotori Fudo
temple Yoomeiji 永明寺 Yomei-Ji
1167 Harada, Fuji shi, Harada. Shizuoka 富士市原田

Gabi Greve - Issa said...

Kobayashi Issa

ura-ura no nami yoke tsubaki saki ni keri

miles of camellias
stand protecting the shore
in full bloom

This hokku is from Issa's haibun travelog Journal of a Trip in the Third Year of Kansei (Kansei sannen kikou) and was written on lunar 3/29 (May 1) in 1791, while Issa was visiting various poets in the area northeast of the city of Edo, so the shore is the Pacific shore along the eastern coast of Honshu. The people in the area have planted low camellia trees up and down the coast as far as one can see in any direction in order to protect the shore from the encroachment of the ocean and to act as natural protection against high waves. People may have planted pines and other trees as well, but at this time of year it is the the camellias which stand out, since they have all burst into full bloom together. The large bright red and pink blossoms are not being blown down, so it is presumably a lazy but expansive spring day, with the blossoms showing more wavelike undulation and energy than the peaceful waves offshore. The hokku seems to suggest that on this day it is surely the overwhelming beauty and intensity of the endless camellia blossoms that is protecting the shore and keeping the waves small and softly sinuous.

Chris Drake

Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

sazanka ya aozora miyuru okuzashiki

winter camellia -
from the reception room in the back
I look at the blue sky

Oomine Akira 大峯あきら Omine Akira
more about the oku zashiki

Gabi Greve said...

Legend from Niigata
小千谷市 Ojiya city

. tanuki 狸 - mujina 狢 - racoon dog, badger legends .
A woman came to the rich neighbour to help with the birth.
As thank-you present she got a length of cloth and some money.
When she looked at this next morning, her body was full of Tanuki hair and the money had changed into the leaf of a tsubaki 椿 camellia.

Gabi Greve said...

愛宕山 Atagozan 宝蔵院 Hozo-In / 寶蔵寺 Hozo-Ji
神奈川県横浜市鶴見区馬場4-7-5 / Kanagawa, Yokohama city, Tsurumi, Baba
In the ground is Genpei Goshiki tsubaki 源平五色椿 a camellia tree with five different colors,
the only one of this kind in Japan.

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