General descriptionCamellia japonica is a flowering tree or shrub, usually 1.5–6 metres (4.9–20 ft) tall, but occasionally up to 11 metres (36 ft) tall. Some cultivated varieties achieve a size of 72m² or more. The youngest branches are purplish-brown, becoming grayish-brown as they age. The alternate leathery leaves are dark green on the top side, paler on the underside, usually 5–11 centimetres (2.0–4.3 in) long by 2.5–6 centimetres (1.0–2.4 in) wide with a stalk (petiole) about 5–10 millimetres (0.2–0.4 in) long. The base of the leaf is pointed (cuneate), the margins are very finely toothed (serrulate) and the tip somewhat pointed.
In the wild, flowering is between January and March. The flowers appear along the branches, particularly towards the ends, and have very short stems. They occur either alone or in pairs, and are 6–10 centimetres (2.4–3.9 in) across. There are about nine greenish bracteoles and sepals. Flowers of the wild species have six or seven rose or white petals, each 3–4.5 centimetres (1.2–1.8 in) long by 1.5–2.5 centimetres (0.6–1.0 in) wide; the innermost petals are joined at the base for up to a third of their length. (Cultivated forms often have more petals.) The numerous stamens are 2.5–3.5 centimetres (1.0–1.4 in) long, the outer whorl being joined at the base for up to 2.5 centimetres (1.0 in). The three-lobed style is about 3 centimetres (1.2 in) long.