Tea World

Lesson 5

Morphology of Three Basic Races of Tea

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(i) China Tea Plant (Camellia sinensis L.)  

It is a big shrub, 1-2 m tall with many virgate (straight or slender) stems arising from the base of the plant near the ground. Leaf is hard, thick and leathery; surface matt, marginal veins indistinct and appear sunken in lamina. Blade elliptic with obtuse or broadly obtuse apex; base cuneate, margin bluntly serrulate to sinuate-serrulate with more or less incurved teeth, glabrous above and villose below when young, becoming sparsely villose as the leaf ages. Ultimately becoming glabrous.Young leaves garnet-brown through ox-blood to purple in colour.Petiole short, 3-7 mm long, stout, usually giving the leaf an erect pose.

Flowers are borne singly or in pairs in the cataphyllary axils. Pedicel 6-10 mm long, clavate, glabrous with 2-3 sub-opposite scars little below the middle, marking the position of caduceus bracteoles 2-5 mm long. Sepals 5-6, imbricate, persistent, leathery, ovate or orbicular, 3-6 mm long, glabrous, green petals 7-8, shallowly cup-shaped, 1.5-2 cm long, broad-oval to sub-orbicular, generally white sometimes with pale pink pigmentation. Stamen numerous, arranged in two whorls, inner ones shorter and fewer in number, outer longer and more numerous, 8-13 mm long, united at the base for a few mm with the corolla lobes. Ovary white, densely hairy, 3 locular, ovules 3-5 in each loculus, placentation axial. Style generally 3, sometimes up to 55, free for the greater part of their length, occasionally free up to the base of the ovary. Stigma apical. Capsule 1,2, or 3, coccate, containing 1 to 3 nearly spherical seeds, 10-15 mm in diameter.

(ii) Assam Tea Plant (Camellia assamica (Masters)  

It is a small tree. 10-15 m tall with a trunk sometimes up to one third of its height, possesses a robust branch system. In typical plants, the leaf is dependent, thin, and glossy with more or less acuminate apex and distinct marginal veins. The Leaf blade is usually broadly elliptic, 8-20 cm long and 3.5-7.5 cm wide, base cuneate, margin obscurely denticulate to bluntly wide-serrulate, glabrous or persistently hairy on the midrib below.Flowers single or in pair on the cataphyllary axils, pedicels with scars of 3 caduceus bracteoles, smooth and green. Sepals 5-6 unequal, leathery, persistent. Petals 7-8, white, occasionally with pale yellow pigmentation at the base of petals. Stamen are numerous as in C. sinensis.

(iii)  Cambod or Southern form of Tea (Camellia assamica sub sp. lasiocalys (Planch.MS)

It is a small fastigiated tree with more or less equally developed ascending main stem, 6-10 m tall, with several upright, almost equally developed branches. The Leaf more or less erect, glossy, and yellowish-green when young, light-green at maturity changing to coppery-yellow or pinkish-red from autumn till the end of the season. Petiole pinkish-red at the base. Leaf size intermediate between sinensis and assamica, broadly elliptic, marginal veins not very prominent. Ovary 3-4, sometimes 5-1ocular, style 3-5, free nearly up to half the length, ad pressed, straight with apical or linear stigma. On the other floral characters, it resembles the Assam plant, with the difference that 4 or more bracteoles are found on the pedicel of flowers.

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