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The computer and the camellia: what the computer can do for conservation, knowledge and research of camellias

Gianmario Motta*, Giovanni Miceli,

Laboratorio di Ingegneria dei Servizi, DIII, Università di Pavia, Via Ferrata 1, 27100, Pavia, Italia.


One of the toughest tasks for the camellia lover is to identify varieties - what camellia is that? - as stated in the famous Macboy’s book [1]. The same happens with species that are described in the recent Gao’s book, that displays pictures but does not contain one-to-one scale drawings [2 ]. But the real issue is a complete nomenclature of the genus Camellia and of all its species and varieties. As is well known, some camellia species tend to proliferate varieties, because their high variability and instability. So, identification and description of varieties become the core issue. A partial response to that issue is the register of camellia varieties.
 In  1942, the first edition of the  ‘Camellia Nomenclature’ was published by  the  Southern California Camellia Society; the 2014 edition lists some 3.000 varieties [3]. In 1990, Tom Savige, after a titanic 10 years’ work, with the help of experts from all over the world, published the International Camellia Register. Supplement One followed  in  1998. This work was continued with Supplement Two, compiled by Neville Haydon.  The Register lists almost 30.000 camellia names, both existing and extinct [4]. 

It should be stressed that the Camellia Register contains names, as the term ‘register’ suggests, and cannot be considered an encyclopedia or a guide for camellia identification.  The content of the printed Camellia Register has been transferred  to the web by a team of the University of Pavia, led by Gianmario Motta, with the guidance of a world committee  (G. Motta, P. Short, Z. Wang) and the very substantial help  of  Neville Haydon, who provided the digital input, as Word files.  The resulting Web Camellia Register (WCR) was first presented at Dali (China) in February 2008 and then to the 2008 International Camellia Congress held at Falmouth, Cornwall, UK: it reached 1 million hits in March 2014 [5].

The WCR can be accessed via: It provides two main functions, namely the download of the full register text (pdf files) and a search engine that navigates the database of camellia names, where the user can search a camellia variety by its name or any string of its description.  ICS website provides further material on camellias, such as articles and news.

1Figure 1 The home page of the Web Camellia Register (WCR)

WCR & ICS website are not encyclopedia of camellias. An ideal encyclopedia in our Internet era should be close to Wikipedia. Therefore, it should be (i) free (ii) complete (iii) on line. From this viewpoint, WCR and ICS website suffer several limits, namely (a) information islands, (b) incomplete information,  (c) no mobile access and, last, not least  (d) no totally free information. Let us comment each point.

  1. The information is fragmented between several resources. You cannot navigate from WCR to related articles, pictures, or to the gardens where a given camellia is listed. So you lose links with external information (e.g. Wikipedia) but, more important, with internal information e.g. on  historic camellias [6] [7] [8] [9] [10][11] [ 12] [13 ], because it locked within printed books or in the ICS journals or published in the ICS  website, but not  linked to the WCR. So, horizontal issues as conservation and identification [14 ] [15 ] [16] [17][18] or propagation of  a specific species or variety  [20]  should be navigated  by cross references and  quotations.
  2. The information is incomplete. The WCR only provides a textual description, and not a systematic or selective illustration.
  3. The access is not mobile: neither amateurs nor experts can walk in a garden supported by a smart phone
  4. Information is not open nor totally free: the access to ICS articles is restricted - while even IEEE opens all papers.

Converging technologies

Most limits can be overcome by the current technology. Today IT can dramatically enhance the support to conservation, knowledge and research on camellias by:

  1. Smartphones for ubiquitous access and  collection of information  (voice, photo, text) [21]
  2. Computer maps, that can map information on gardens, varieties, individual plants (geo-referencing) [22]
  3. Web Services, a software engineering technique that interconnects multiple information domains, enabling navigation from web register to articles, pictures, garden descriptions etc.  [22]
  4. Sensors (e.g. RFID tags on trees) that dialogue through internet with servers and smart phones, enabling new knowledge on plant position, condition etc. , thus creating the so called Internet of Things [24].

These technologies can overcome the limits we have discussed in Introduction, as we show in the table here below.

Table 1 Technologies and information limits




Computer maps

Web Services

Field   Sensor

Information Islands





Incomplete information





No mobile access





No open information

It is a political decision

An enhanced Camellia Register

The WCR data base (running from 2008) can be easily enhanced by linking additional information:

  1. Google pictures (of course these pictures are not controlled, but also mistakes can give information)
  2. Certified pictures, posted by ICS  ad hoc taskforce  or equivalent body, coming from ICS registration files when available or from controlled sources
  3. Drawings as Veschaffelt’s [25],  Berlese’s [ 26] and the like (incidentally such work has been already done in some essays on historic camellias [6, 8]
  4. Other illustrative material, as vignettes
  5. Wikipedia link

The user will get all of this within the WCR (“one stop shopping”) i.e. without needing to exit  from the computer session.

2Figure 2 The add-ons to the current WCR page (on the left): Pictures, Drawings, Vignette

A potential Garden Register

The ICS website already provides an entry point to the Gardens of Excellence.
Such access information can be integrated with further data available in the garden’s website and web register e.g.:

  1. Information on the garden (articles and detailed garden website)
  2. Google map or similar that shows where the garden is located
  3. Garden interactive map  that shows where individual plants are located
  4. Access to the enhanced web register that provides  information on the varieties in the garden

Technically it is mainly a series of hyperlinks among websites. A possible navigation is illustrated in Figure 3, which we read left to right. The user selects on the ICS website of a given garden (e.g. Villa Anelli), triggers its position on the map (and can locate also his/her position) and, finally, accesses an interactive map of the garden showing where to click for individual plants, thus recalling the descriptions from the WCR.

3Figure 3 Elements of the potential garden register

A mobile guide for visitors

Mobile phone is a powerful guide to visitors  of  gardens. Visitors, by using their smart phone, can:

  1. Access information on the garden from ICS down to the local website
  2. Set a garden itinerary with waypoints according to their interests and  time
  3. Identify a specific tree in a garden
  4. Access the web register information and pictures
  5. Feed their comments with or without pictures (a similar application for Pavia city management feeds is being developed by our Lab [27])

This also will help those who manage the garden to locate individual trees and simulate visits: it can support on-demand cross–gardens itineraries such as Galicia’s Route of Camellias  

A potential support for gardeners and gardens

Computers can also support (and in some cases already do) the operation of a garden, by a set of garden administration functions. An administration function can support garden management (Figure 4) in several activities:

Positioning plants in the garden map (see the figure on left)

Maintain plant inventory records (see on right of the figure)

Integrate RFID / sensor data in plant records (it could store the history of each individual plant as a UPR does for human beings) – see figure on left

4Figure 4 Garden administration functions

Navigation flow on the smart phone for a garden visitor

Most functions that we have illustrated can be incorporated in a downloadable APP for a garden visitor. The related navigation is in Figure 5. The user selects, among the Garden of Excellence, one garden (Villa Motta). He/ she can see the map, click the camellias he/she   is interested in, or browse the list of varieties in the garden.  Finally, in front of a given plant, the visitor can find out the corresponding description on the web, thanks to a communication WIFI or NFC from the plant to the smart phone.

5Figure 5 The navigation flow on a smart phone


We have surveyed feasible computer technology for the knowledge and conservation of camellias. Generally, the services we have addressed puts knowledge at your finger tips, specifically:

  1. Ubiquitous and complete information on camellias in terms of description, images, location., history of individual plants
  2. Overall map of historic camellias : where they are, what they are
  3. Garden itineraries/ tourism
  4. Accurate management of Gardens of Excellence (and conservation gardens)

Such software services can be deployed on social networks e.g. Facebook or as an App (the latter being preferred), to be downloaded from the ICS website. Why is all of this important? New generations surf on the web, and a club or society must be there, if it wants to survive in the era of Internet.


1.    Macoboy, Styrling , Lansdowne, London, 1998
2.    Gao J., Parks C.F., Du Y., Collected species of the genus Camellia, 2005 ISBN 7-5341-2594-4
4.    The International Camellia Register, The International Camellia Society,
5.    Web Camellia Register  
6.    Accati E. (ed.), Remotti D., Corneo A., “Camelie dell’Ottocento nel Verbano”, L’Artistica Savigliano, Torino, 2000.
7.    Accati E. (ed),  “Le antiche Camelie dei Rovelli” ( = Rovelli’s Ancient Camellias ) Grossi, Domodossola, 2006 ;
8.    Accati E. (ed.), “Camelie dell’Ottocento- volume 2” (= Ancient Camellias in the Eighteenth Century), Ages Artigrafiche, Torino 2007.
9.    Hillebrand P., Bertolazzi G., “Antiche Camelie del Lago Maggiore - Antique Camellias of Lake Maggiore”, Alberti Libraio editore, Verbania. 2003 (vol. 1) and 2011 (vol. 2);
10.    Camangi F., Stefani A.,  Bracci T., Minnocc A. ,. Lippi A., Cattolica G., Santoro A.M., Sebastiani  I. “Antiche camelie della Lucchesia” (= Ancient Camellias of Lucca), ETS,  Lucca 2012
11.    Salinero Corral C., Vela Fernandez P., and Vaquez Mansilla P., “La camellia en la colleccion de la deputacion de Pontevedra”, Pontevedra 2004
12.    Gloria M. , Splendor of Italian Camellias, International Camellia Journal ,  2012, p. 44
13.    Crowder F.,  Early  camellias in United States, International Camellia Journal ,  2013, pp. 51
14.    Trehane, J., A summary of camellia conservation around the world, International Camellia Journal ,  2012, p. 84
15.    Hiruki C., Historic camellias: identification, protection , conservation, International Camellia Journal ,  2013, P. 50
16.    Motta G., Conservation of historic camellias,  International Camellia Journal,  2013, pp. 58-60
17.    Vela P. &  others, Characterization of camellia japonica cultivars using molecular markers, International Camellia Journal ,  2013, pp. 61-70
18.    Robson B., Data collection for historic camellias- a practical guide,  International Camellia Journal ,  2013, pp. 52-57
19.    Yang Y. & others, The key technology of cutting propagation for Camellia reticulata, International Camellia Journal ,  2012, p. 114
20.    Tran N. Y & others, A new species of yellow camellia, International Camellia Journal ,  2012, p. 161
21.    Ballagas, R., Borchers, J., Rohs, M., & Sheridan, J. G. (2006). The smart phone: a ubiquitous input device. Pervasive Computing, IEEE, 5(1), 70-77.
22.    Miller, C. C. (2006). A beast in the field: The Google Maps mashup as GIS/2. Cartographica: The International Journal for Geographic Information and Geovisualization, 41(3), 187-199.
23.    Alonso, G., Casati, F., Kuno, H., & Machiraju, V. (2004). Web services (pp. 123-149). Springer Berlin Heidelberg.
24.    Atzori, L., Iera, A., & Morabito, G. (2010). The internet of things: A survey.Computer networks, 54(15), 2787-2805.
25.    Verschaffelt, A. A., & McIlhenny, E. A. (1945). New Iconography of the camellias.
26.    Berlese L.B. Monographie du genre Camellia et traité complet sur sa culture, sa description et sa classification, Paris 1840
27.    Motta, G., Sacco, D., Belloni, A., & You, L. (2013, July). A system for green personal integrated mobility: A research in progress. In Service Operations and Logistics, and Informatics (SOLI), 2013 IEEE International Conference on (pp. 1-6). IEEE.


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