Reese

Camellias are one of those hardy plants that make winter beautiful, since not much else wants to bloom. In fact, Camelia's are one of the few plants that can grow in the continental US that contain caffeine, the other(s) being in the Ilex, or Holly genus, most notable Ilex vomitoria, or Yaupon Holly, endemic to the Southeast US -- a close relative of Yerba Mate.

There are thousands of cultivars of Camelias, so it would be difficult to know which specific variety the one pictured is.

It probably doesn't smell, very few Camellias have a scent.

The alternate, obtuse leaves are leathery to waxy, usually dark green and serrulate (fine serrations). The petals are arranged in a rosette, the specimen here has a formal double form which hides the stamens and pistil.

I guess my family always had sturdy hybrids. They looked their best during snow (Southern US snow, if that counts) so we always had great flower cuttings for winter holidays. We have many Camellia bushes- close to a dozen. I have a pic of one beautiful blossom that I took while it was snowing this year! Great plants.

Traditionally, Camellias symbolised pure devotion, with the calyx seen as male protecting the 'female' petals. Rare in flowering plants, when the bloom is spent the calyx falls off with the petals - a botanical Romeo and Juliet.

Camellias are also said to mean "my destiny is in your hands". I've read someplace that in Japan you're not supposed to give this flower to someone, because the falling flowers symbolize death -- the falling head of a beheaded man/samurai. But I'm not sure how true that is (am not Japanese).