The major point of interest in camellias since 1950 was the release to the Western world of the yellow camellia, first called Camellia chrysantha in 1980. Later Taxonomic studies proved that C. chrysantha was the same as C. nitidissima. As C. nitidissima was introduced much earlier in the 1930’s than C. chrysantha, C. nitidissima is the correct name for this camellia species.
Harold and Dorothy Fraser from Wagga Wagga, NSW were the force behind getting C. nitidissima seeds released and received five seeds from friends in Kunming, China, in January 1980, Harold sowed these seeds immediately and all germinated but soon after two were lost with damping off disease. Then due to the hot dry summer the three surviving seeds did not thrive and in fact one died. Harold therefore decided to send one of the remaining plants to Camellia Lodge Nursery in Melbourne and the other to Camellia Grove Nursery in Sydney for their care and possible propagation. The C. nitidissima seedling at Camellia Grove Nursery recovered sufficiently to provide two scions and in July 1981 these were grafted on to fourth year C. sasanqua ‘Kanjiro’ understock. More grafts were done the following year and in December 1983 about 70 cutting grafts were done and most of these survived. Late March 1984, 10 of the cutting grafts done four months earlier were showing flower buds. Then on 16th August, 1984, the first bud opened to produce the anticipated yellow camellia flower. This is the first time it flowered in Australia.
Tom Savige of Albury also received 5 nitidissima seedlings around the same time as the Fraser’s. All of these were successfully raised and Tom very generously gave three seedlings to friends in Melbourne and subsequently sent scions from his plants to New Zealand, Britain, France and Italy.
With the yellow species of camellia, it was hoped with hybridising, to get apricot coloured camellias. Though work has been going on for about 35 years in China (2004), the dream for apricot camellia flowers is still to be realised. Another point to be made is that now there are about 30 different yellow camellia species for hybridising uses.