The Stewardia (also spelled Stuartia) is a small genus of only 8-20 species of flowering plants in the Theaceae family. They are closely related to the Camellia. They are mostly native to the Eastern portions of Asia including China, Japan, Korea, Laos, Vietnam Myanmar, and Thailand. There are two species native to Southeast North America, from Virginia and Kentucky to the North and Florida through Louisiana in the South. The Stewardia varieties range in size from shrubs to small trees. As trees they can reach heights of 10-65 feet (Asian Varieties) and 10-30 feet (American Varieties).
Image Citation: Richard Webb, Bugwood.org
One of the most recognizable features is by far their beautiful bark. The smooth bark can range in color from orange, yellow, or brown and peels in fine flakes revealing more depth of colors underneath.The Stewardia are mainly deciduous with a few members being considered evergreen, these are sometimes even categorized into an even smaller genus known as Hartia. The leaves are simply shape and arranged alternately. The leaf edges are serrated and the upper surface is usually glossy. The leaves range in size from 3-14 cm long.
The second most identifiable feature of the Stewardia is the showy flowers. The flowers are large ranging in size from 3-11cm diameter. Each flower is made up of 5-8 petals. Flowering generally occurs in the mid to late summer depending on the region. The flowers are white in color with orange centers, the flowers coloring greatly compliments the bright green leaves.
Image Citation: Cynthia Taylor, Elachee Nature Science Center, Bugwood.org
The genus was named by Carolus Linnaeus in 1753 to honor John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute. The name Stuart was transcribed incorrectly and instead spelled Stewart, leading to the spelling Stewardia. Many publications have used both versions of the spelling with the "Stewardia" version being the most universal, the Stuardia spelling was used more frequently in the 19th century.
The Stewardia requires full to partial sunlight. It prefers wet soil and is not tolerant to drought. It is a slow grower and makes for a beautiful specimen tree it offers year round interest. The recommended hardiness zones are 5-7( or 5-8 depending on variety).
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