Camellias provide a splash of colour in the cemetery in the winter, being one of the few tree species that flower in the cold weather. Sometimes they are called ‘The rose of winter’ – which also provides the symbolism of their placement in cemeteries.
These are Camellia japonica, the name providing the clue they came from Japan, China, South Korea and Taiwan. In their home habitat, they grow in forests at altitudes of between 300 – 1,000m.
Shipments of these plants were known to have come to New Zealand in the years 1911-1919, and these specimens probably came from this source. Headstones in their vicinity confirm this time frame.