FullSizeRender copyAustralia has its own ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’, well not quite the Lost Ark in this case, but the Lost Camellias. Dr George Orel and Mr Tony Curry are our ‘Raiders of the Lost Camellias’, two intrepid plant hunter adventurers that have undertaken some 17 expeditions to Vietnam, 9 to China and 3 to Japan. The aim of their work since 1999 has been the location, identification, description and introduction of new Camellia species to science. Inaugural members of Theaceae Exploration Associates (TEA) they have published some 32 new species of Camellia, 3 species of Polyspora and more than 60 scientific papers. The Camellia is an iconic ornamental flower with a long horticultural history and is grown worldwide by experts, nurserymen and enthusiasts. The fact remains that even in the 21st Century there are hitherto largely unexplored regions in South East Asia. The Lao Peoples Democratic Republic is one of these places. For some time now, the associates have been planning a scientific expedition to the mountains of Laos, a venture which would enable them to obtain valuable data as to the occurrence and distribution of new Camellia species, within this previously unexplored region. The new data would facilitate their ongoing scientific research into the botany and taxonomy of the genus Camellia.

Help Fund Camellia species Collection in Laos

However, Dr. George Orel and Mr. Tony Curry are lacking the financial means for such an expedition with estimated costs of 20K. Therefore, there is an appeal to the public for help. This unique exploration by Australians into the jungles of the limestone mountains of Laos will be scientifically recorded and made available to the general public. The ‘Associates’ will publish their work not only in the scientific literature, but also in the various Camellia Journals; regardless of their results Dr. Orel and Mr. Curry will keep the Camellia community up to date with their future challenges, progress and successes.

Dr George Orel holds bachelor and honours degrees in horticulture and a doctorate in plant breeding and genetics from the University of Western Sydney, Australia. He has also had 16 years experience working on the botany and taxonomy of the family Theaceae and Camellia.

Mr Tony Curry has a diploma and graduate diploma in applied science (agriculture) from Hawkesbury Agricultural College Richmond, NSW, Australia, as well as a graduate diploma in technical education from the University of Technology, Sydney. Tony has travelled throughout South East Asia undertaking 26 years field work in botany and taxonomy of the genus Camellia.

Be part of their next exploration into the
Limestone Mountains along the Mekong River in Laos


TEA Article 'Raiders of the Lost Camellias' (4) PDF-2Both George and Tony are the authors of an exciting adventure story of plant hunting in South East Asia with magnificent photos of some of the most unusual Camellia species you will ever see. Their book is a large publication full of colour and stories, published in 2015 in paperback, A4 and 340 pages.

The Editor, Charles Lee of Camellia News, Spring Summer 2015, page 15 quoted; “Many of the Camellias are stunningly beautiful, or strikingly bizarre, and previously unseen photos bring their beauty and peculiarities alive. Orel and Curry have used photographic images, many taken in the field, to ‘sweeten’ and broaden the appeal of their arguments and discussions. The authors also discuss the background to their discoveries reflecting on often gruelling expeditions into sub-tropical and tropical jungles and mountain forests. ‘In Pursuit of Hidden Camellias’ should also whet the readers’ interest in future discoveries of Camellia species from this lush but challenging part of Asia. Orel and Curry’s book ‘In Pursuit of Hidden Camellias’ should appeal not only to scientists, but to plant breeders, nurserypersons, collectors and plant enthusiasts worldwide’.

TEA Article 'Raiders of the Camellias' (4) PDF-2

Dr George Orel (L) receiving E.G. Waterhouse Medal from Mr Joe Neuschwanger, President, Camellias Australia

Dr George Orel in recognition for his outstanding service to the genus Camellia in scientific and botanical fields, particularly in taxonomic and evolutionary research, and for the field explorations and discovery of new Camellia species in Southern Vietnam was awarded by Camellias Australia in 2015 the “E.G. Waterhouse Medal”, at the National Camellia Congress in Windsor, NSW, Australia.

TEA 'Raiders of the Lost Camellias' (4) PDF-2

2016 International Camellia Congress, Dali China: Anthony (Tony) Curry (L) and Dr George Orel (R)

During the 2016 Dali International Camellia Congress both Dr George Orel and Mr Tony Curry received the award of excellence for their presentation, ‘Advances in taxonomy in genus Camellia‘. The co-authors also received the prestigious President’s Medal from the International Camellia Society in Dali, China for their specialized and extensive research in the discovery, classification and taxonomy of the camellias of Vietnam which resulted in the publication of their exhaustive work, ‘In Pursuit of Hidden Camellias: 32 new Camellia species from Vietnam and China. These new species may bring important new traits into future hybridization projects, enriching international Camellia cultivation.

To make a donation or order their book ‘In Pursuit of Hidden CamelliasContact: Theaceae Exploration Associates at:  or


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