News and Events

Botanical Buzz - Camellia sasanqua and Osmanthus fragrans

Monday, September 08, 2014

Visitors taking a winter’s stroll in the Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden will be well rewarded with beauty, colour and delicate floral scents.

The blooms of the Camellia sasanqua are looking divine. There is an abundance of delicate pale pink flowers on the camellias growing in the Japanese Tea Garden of Shoyoen.

The small white flowers of the Osmanthus fragrans are less showy but the plant is credited with being the most fragrant of all the plants in Shoyoen.  Osmanthus fragrans is native to East Asia, China, Japan and the Himalayas and its common names include sweet osmanthus, sweet olive, tea olive, and fragrant olive.

Osmanthus fragrans is an evergreen shrub or small tree growing to 3–12 m tall. The flowers can be white, pale yellow, yellow, or orange-yellow and they have a strong fruity-floral apricot aroma. The fruit is a purple-black drupe 10–15 mm long which contains a single hard-shelled seed.

The plant is culturally significant to China where it is the floral emblem of the cities of Hangzhou, Suzhou, and Guilin. Guilin literally means "Forest of Osmanthus."

The flowers are used extensively in Chinese cuisine as flavouring for tea, jam, cakes, savoury dishes and wine.

Owing to the timing of the plant's blossoms, osmanthus wine is traditionally enjoyed during the Chinese Mid-Autumn or Mooncake Festival. From the homophony between 酒 and 久 (meaning "long" in the sense of time passing), osmanthus wine is also a traditional gift for birthdays in China.

Both osmanthus tea and wine are considered to have medicinal properties in traditional Chinese medicine.

Interestingly, many insects including butterflies do not find the scent of Osmanthus fragrans attractive.  Consequently the flowers are used in North India as an insect repellent to protect clothes.

Osmanthus fragrans can be found both in the Japanese Tea Garden and near the western-most bridge in Shoyoen.

                                                                                                                                  By Ian McAlister & Karen Hagan