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Stewartia ovata is often confused with:
Stewartia pseudocamellia Leaves
Native alternative(s) for Stewartia ovata:
Stewartia malacodendron Stewartia malacodendron
Plants that fill a similar niche:
Stewartia malacodendron Stewartia malacodendron
Halesia carolina Full Form
Ptelea trifoliata Form

Mountain Camellia Stewartia ovata

Other Common Name(s):

Previously known as:

  • Malachodendron ovatum
  • Malachodendron pentagynum
  • Stewartia ovata var. grandiflora
  • Stewartia pentagyna
Phonetic Spelling
stew-AR-tee-ah oh-VAY-tah
Description

The mountain camellia is a large ornamental deciduous shrub or small tree that is native to the piedmont and mountains of North Carolina. The plant may reach a height of 10 to 15 feet tall and 10 to 15 feet wide and has a rounded to oval habit. The showy white-cupped to saucer-shaped flowers bloom during the summer and have different colored stamens, depending on the cultivar. The orange to scarlet fall foliage adds interest to the landscape. The plant is a member of the Theaceae family and is related to the Camellia.

The mountain camellia is also known as mountain Stewartia or summer dogwood. It is native to the southeastern United States and may be found in the southern Appalachian Mountains and Piedmont areas from Virginia to Alabama along wooded stream margins. In nature, it can also be found in shaded ravines, mesic forests, especially acidic bluffs, and often in the openings of rhododendron thickets.

The genus's name, Stewartia, is in honor of John Stuart who was a 16th-century Scottish botanist. The spelling was the result of a transcription error. During the 19th-century, the name Stuartia was used; however, the original spelling is now accepted. The species name, ovata, is translated as "egg-shaped" and references the shape of the leaves.

This slow-growing plant prefers full sun to partial shade. In very hot climates the leaves may develop leaf scorch. It is best to provide shelter from the hot sun. Moist, well-drained, rich loamy soils are best tolerated. This plant is sensitive to heat, drought, and soil compaction.  It is known to be difficult to cultivate and transplant. The methods of propagation include softwood cuttings and seeds.

The bark of the mountain camellia is ridged and furrowed. The foliage is dark green in the spring and summer, and the fall foliage is in shades of orange and red. The flowers are camellia-like and the five petals have fringed or ruffled edges and the center of the flower has orange anthers. The fruits are small oval-shaped woody capsules. 

This rare species would add a special interest as an accent, specimen, border, or understory tree.  Consider the mountain camellia for a patio, lawn, native garden, or cottage garden.

NC native shrub or tree

Seasons of Interest:

Foliage: Fall      Bloom: Summer     Fruit:  Fall      Bark: Winter

Quick ID Hints:

  • the bark has gray-brown ridges and orangish-brown furrows
  • young stems are reddish-brown and have a zigzag pattern
  • spring and summer foliage is dark green and the fall foliage is orange to scarlet
  • showy solitary, five-petalled, white Camellia-like flowers with ruffled petal edges, and orange anthers
  • fruits are oval woody capsules and contain reddish-brown seeds

Insects, Disease, and Other Problems: The mountain camellia has no serious insect or disease problems. It is sensitive to drought and soil compaction. In hot summer climates, leaf scorch may occur if the tree is planted in full sun.

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Grandiflora'
    large flowers, purple stamens
  • 'Inner Light'
    large flowers and purple new growth
  • 'Nymans'
    large flowers, yellow anthers
  • 'Red Rose'
    red stamens and yellow anthers
  • 'Royal Purple'
    purple stamens and yellow anthers
  • 'Scarlet Sentinel'
    hybrid with Stewartia pseudocamellia, red-pink stamens
  • 'White Satin'
    white stamens and yellow anthers
'Grandiflora', 'Inner Light', 'Nymans', 'Red Rose', 'Royal Purple', 'Scarlet Sentinel', 'White Satin'
Tags:
#deciduous#small tree#full sun tolerant#white flowers#shrub#slow growing#native tree#piedmont#native shrub#fall interest#flowering tree#moist soil#NC native#well-drained soil#large shrub#rich soils#summer flowers#flowering shrub#bushy#thickets#native garden#attractive leaves#mountains#summer interest#acidic soils tolerant#multitrunked#fruits summer#rare#loamy soils tolerant#fruits#fall color red#fall color orange#fruits early fall#partial shade tolerant#non-toxic for horses#non-toxic for dogs#non-toxic for cats#Audubon#partial sun tolerant
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Grandiflora'
    large flowers, purple stamens
  • 'Inner Light'
    large flowers and purple new growth
  • 'Nymans'
    large flowers, yellow anthers
  • 'Red Rose'
    red stamens and yellow anthers
  • 'Royal Purple'
    purple stamens and yellow anthers
  • 'Scarlet Sentinel'
    hybrid with Stewartia pseudocamellia, red-pink stamens
  • 'White Satin'
    white stamens and yellow anthers
'Grandiflora', 'Inner Light', 'Nymans', 'Red Rose', 'Royal Purple', 'Scarlet Sentinel', 'White Satin'
Tags:
#deciduous#small tree#full sun tolerant#white flowers#shrub#slow growing#native tree#piedmont#native shrub#fall interest#flowering tree#moist soil#NC native#well-drained soil#large shrub#rich soils#summer flowers#flowering shrub#bushy#thickets#native garden#attractive leaves#mountains#summer interest#acidic soils tolerant#multitrunked#fruits summer#rare#loamy soils tolerant#fruits#fall color red#fall color orange#fruits early fall#partial shade tolerant#non-toxic for horses#non-toxic for dogs#non-toxic for cats#Audubon#partial sun tolerant
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Stewartia
    Species:
    ovata
    Family:
    Theaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    South Eastern U.S.A
    Distribution:
    Native: USA--AL, GA, KY, MS, NC, SC, TN, and VA
    Wildlife Value:
    The plant provides shelter for wildlife.
    Play Value:
    Attractive Flowers
    Wildlife Cover/Habitat
    Dimensions:
    Height: 10 ft. 0 in. - 15 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 10 ft. 0 in. - 15 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Native Plant
    Shrub
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Oval
    Rounded
    Spreading
    Growth Rate:
    Slow
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Available Space To Plant:
    12-24 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    5a, 5b, 6b, 6a, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Summer
    Fruit Type:
    Capsule
    Fruit Description:
    The fruits are oval, woody, pubescent, and five-segmented capsules. When ripened, the capsule splits open and reveals the reddish-brown seeds.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Solitary
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Summer
    Flower Shape:
    Cup
    Saucer
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    1-3 inches
    Flower Description:
    The flowers are white, solitary, cupped to saucer-shaped, and have five petals. They measure 2.5 to 3 inches in diameter. The edges of the petals appear ruffled. They are about 3 inches in diameter and have showy purple stamens and orange anthers in the center. Blooming occurs in July.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Orange
    Red/Burgundy
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The leaves are green, ovate to elliptic, alternate, and simple. They measure 3 to 5 inches long and 1.5 to 3 inches wide. The upper surface of the leaf is shiny and dark green. The undersides are paler and pubescent. The fall foliage colors are shades of orange and red.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Dark Brown
    Orange
    Surface/Attachment:
    Furrowed
    Ridges
    Bark Description:
    The bark has a grayish-brown ridges and orangish-brown furrows.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Green
    Red/Burgundy
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Buds:
    Hairy
    Stem Form:
    Zig Zags
    Stem Surface:
    Smooth (glabrous)
    Stem Description:
    The young stems are reddish-brown and smooth with a zigzag pattern. The buds are flat and covered with silky white hairs.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Meadow
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Cottage Garden
    Native Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Border
    Understory Tree
    Attracts:
    Small Mammals
    Songbirds