A family of tropical and subtropical trees and shrubs, and some scrambling climbers, in which the leaves are alternate, often evergreen, and leathery, without stipules. The flowers are regular, often solitary, showy, and usually bisexual. There are 4–7 sepals and petals and numerous stamens which are either free, in bundles, or in a tube. The ovary is generally superior, with 3–5 fused carpels with separate locules and free styles. The fruit is a capsule, berry, or achene, with a persistent calyx. The seeds have little endosperm. The family is often split into 8 or more smaller families, separated by the characteristics of the reproductive system. Many species are ornamentals, including the well-known Camellia japonica, but the best-known and economically most valuable member of the family is C. sinensis, the tea plant. This species has been cultivated for many centuries and contains caffeine, polyphenols, and essential oils. There are 28 genera, with about 520 species, most of which are restricted to tropical and subtropical regions, centred in Asia and America.
Subjects: Plant Sciences and Forestry.