Choose your language:
Open search

The Yellow Camellias of  the Tam Dao National Park

Tran Ninh1  Le Nguyet Hai Ninh2
1. Hanoi University of Science, Ha Noi, Viet Nam
2. Hoa Lu University, Ninh Binh, Viet Nam)


Located in the North - East region, Tam Dao is one of the famous places of Vietnam. Tam Dao National Park (TDNP) lies between 1050 30’ - 1050 47’ E and 210 20’ - 210 32’ N, extending from North - West to South - East. The topography of the Tam Dao National Park is very complex. Mountain chains are deeply dissected by narrow valleys. The Tam Dao mountains extend more than 80 km length but the breadth of them is less than 20 km. Their highest peaks, Thach Ban, Thien Tri, Rung Rinh, are between 1300 - 1400 m in height. The narrow chains of Tam Dao mountains have rather steep slopes, between 25 - 300, with many small streams, rapids and waterfalls in the valleys.

In geology aspect, Tam Dao mountains have a complex geological foundation which has been constituted for a long period of time. Tam Dao mountains are composed by the acid - eruptive formation of trias age of tuff, riolit, and crystalline daxito rocks. Some places of northern Tam Dao mountains are built up by muscovite granite of Crotacecus age. About climate, TDNP belongs to tropical monsoon area. The average temperature of the coldest month/January in Tam Dao, at 900 m altitude is 9.30 C and the warmest month’s June is 260 C, while the annual average temperature is 180C. In comparison with the adjacent lowland areas, the temperature of TDNP is rather cool. The temperature gradient is in average 0.60 C per 100 m altitude, in all reasons. Precipitation in Tam Dao varies according to seasons, but mainly concentrated in the summer. Moreover, the cool, dry wind and moist, warm one blowing alternately over the year also affect the vegetation of Tamdao.

The natural conditions of Tamdao are suitable for species of flowering plants in general and species of Camellia genus in particular. At TDNP, 08 yellow Camellias have been recorded.

1. The species of Yellow Camellia

1.1 Camellia crassiphylla Ninh et Hakoda

Small tree, 3-5 m high, branches glabrous. Leaves stalked, 17-20 mm long, glabrous; blades thick and coriaceous, broad-elliptic or elliptic, apices obtuse, rounded or slightly cordate at base, margins shallowly denticulate, lateral veins 8-9 pairs,. Flowers yellow, 4.0-4.3 cm in diameter, terminal or axillary. Pedicels 3-5 mm long. Bractioles 2-3, hairy. Sepals 5, hairy. Petals 9-10, outer petals tomemtose at outside; inner petals oblong-elliptic, tomemtose,, united to androecium for 1-2 mm at the base. Androecium numerous, 16-17 mm long, glabrous, outer filaments united about 5 mm at the base and forms a short cup. Gynoecium 3, glabrous, ovaries 3 loculi, styles 3, about 1 cm long, free to the base. Capsules depressed globose, 3-locular with 1-3 seeds in each loculus, pericarp 2-3 mm thick. Seeds cuneate, glabrous. (fig.1, 2)

Blooming season: winter to early spring.

Habitat: in valley of evergreen forest at altitudes of 500-600 m.

This is an endemic species of Tam Dao National Park.

Camellia crassiphylla

Figure 1: Flower of Camellia crassiphylla

Camellia crassiphylla

Figure 2: Fruits of Camellia crassiphylla

1.2 Camellia gilberti (A.Chev.) Sealy

Camellia gilberti

Figure 3: Flower of Camellia gilberti

Shrub, about 2 m high, pubescent at the ends of young shoots, smooth. Leaves stalked; petioles 3-8 mm long, pubescent., blades elliptic or oblong-elliptic, apex acuminate, base cuneate or narrow-cuneate, leaf margin shallowly serrulate, lateral veins obscure, 6-7 pairs. Flowers yellowish, about 1 cm in diameter, terminal, axillary. Pedicels slender, 8-10 mm long. Bractioles 2-3, ovate or triangle, 1 mm high, 2 mm wide, hairy. Sepals 5, scale-shape or litter round, 2-3 mm high, 3-4 mm wide, inner surfaces long and densely hairy, outer  surfaces glabrous. Petals 4, obovate, 7-8 mm long, glabrous, united with androecium about 2 mm at the base. Androecium 4 mm long, united with one another for almost their length, glabrous. Gynoecium glabrous, ovaries 3 loculi, styles 3, 1.2-2.5 mm long, free to the base. Fruits and seeds not seen. (Fig. 3)                                                                                                          

Blooming season: Winter.

Distribution: Tien Yen, Quang Ninh province, Tam Dao National Park, Vinh Phuc Province, Phu Ho, Phu Tho Province. According to Gao, J. Y.(2005) this species was found in China (Yunnan).

1.3 Camellia hakodae Ninh

Shrub or small tree, branches glabrous. Leaves stalked; blades thickly coriaceous, elliptic or oblong, apex acuminate, base cuneate or rounded, glabrous, lateral veins 12-16 pairs, petioles 8-15mm, glabrous. Flowers yellow, 6-8 cm in diameter, terminal or axillary; pedicels 1-1.2 cm long, bracteoles 5-6, sepals 5, broadly lunate or suborbicular, inner surface densely pubescent, margins ciliate, petals 16-17, suborbicular to elliptic, 2-5.3 cm long, 2.3-3.5 cm wide, pubescent inside and sparser to glabrous on innermost. Androecium 4-4.5 cm long, outer filaments united 1/3-1/2 of their length, inner filaments free, pubescent. Gynoecium glabrous, ovaries 4-5 loculi, styles 4 or 5, 3.2-3.5 cm long, free to the base, glabrous. Capsules globose, 5-6 cm in diameter , about 4 cm high, 3-locular with 3 or 4 seeds in each loculus, pericarp 4.5-6.5 mm thick. Seeds 2.2 cm long, glabrous. (fig. 4, 5)

Blooming season: November to January.

Habitat: in evergreen forest at altitudes of 300-600 m.

This is an endemic species to Tam Dao.

Camellia hakodae

Figure 4: Flower of Camellia hakodae

Camellia hakodae

Figure 5: Fruits of Camellia hakodae

1.4 Camellia hirsuta Hakoda et Ninh

Camellia hirsute

Figure 6: Flower of Camellia hirsute

Small tree, young branches stout, long and densely hairy. Leaves stalked, hairy same as on young branches,blades oblong, base cuneate or shallow-cordate, densely hairy on middle vein at the base above, hairy below, denser on middle vein, margins serrulate, lateral veins 10-13 pairs. Flowers slightly yellow, terminal on young branches, 4.0 -5.0 cm in diameter. Pedicels about 5 mm long. Bracteoles 8-10, nail-shape, 1-3 mm high, margins and outer surface hairy. Sepals 5 - 6, nearly rounded, 4-6 mm high, long and densely pubescent on inner surfaces, and sparsely on outer surfaces. Petals 9-12, nearly rounded, ovate or obovate, 1.2-3.8 cm long, 1.2-2.6 cm wide, margins and on both side pubescent, petals united together 2-9 mm at the base. Androecium numerous, about 2.6 cm long, outer filaments united about 1.1 cm at the base, inner ones free, densely hairy. Gynoecium densely hairy, ovaries 3, about 3 mm high, styles 3, about 2.2 cm long, sparsely pubescent about 2 mm at the base free. Capsule 2.5-4.2 cm in diameter, 2.0-2.8 cm high, fruit-stalks bearing bracteoles and sepals, pericarp 2.0-3.0 mm thick, 3-4 valves when opened. Seeds semiglobose or cuneate, 1.6 – 1.8 cm, brown, glabrous. (Fig. 6)

Blooming season: Winter to spring.

Habitat: Along stream under leaf canopy in evergreen forest at altitudes of 200m.

This is an endemic species of Vietnam.

1.5 Camellia petelotii (Merr.) Sealy

Camellia petelotii

Figure 7: Camellia petelotii

Shrub or small tree; young branches glabrous. Leaves stalked; blades coriacious, oblong-elliptic, apex acuminate, base cuneate or broadly cuneate, lateral veins 10-12 pairs, margins sharply denticulate; petioles 1.3-2 cm long, glabrous. Flowers yellow, solitary at the ends of young branches; pedicels 1-1.2 cm long, bracteoles 10, sepals 5, petals 14. Androecium 2.3 cm long, outer filaments united for 1.3 cm at the base, glabrous. Gynoecium glabrous, ovaries 3 loculi, styles 3, free to the base. Capsules depressed globose, about 5 cm in diameter. Seeds 1-2 cm long, hairy. (Fig. 7)

Blooming season: November to January.

Habitat: grows in evergreen forest at altitudes of 1000-1150 m.

This is an endemic species to Tam Dao.

1.6 Camellia phanii Hakoda et Ninh

Small tree, young branches, glabrous. Leaves stalked; petioles 10-12 mm long, glabrous, blades thick and coriaceous, oblong elliptic or elliptic; accumulate apex, base cuneate or broad cuneate;  lateral veins 8-10 pairs. Flowers yellow, terminal or axillary; pedicels 1.0-1.5 cm long; bracteoles 5-6, nail-shape, acyclic, margins ciliate. Sepals 5, scale-shape to nearly rounded, inner surfaces pubescent; bracteoles and sepals persistent on fruit-stalks. Petals 14-19, pubescent on both side, petals united together and to androecium 2.0-10mm at the base. Androecium numerous, about 2.5 cm long, outer filaments united about 2.0 cm form a tube, inner ones free, pubescent. Gynoecium glabrous, ovaries 3, styles 3, about 2.2-2.5 cm long, free to the base. Capsules nearly globose, 3-locular, 1-4 seeds each loculus, pericarp 4.0-5.0 mm thick. Seeds 1.0-1.8 cm long, hairy. (Fig.8, 9)

Blooming reason: winter to spring.

Habitat: along streams in evergreen forest at altitudes of 150-300 m.

This is an endemic species to Viet Nam.

Camellia phanii

Figure 8: Flowers of Camellia phanii

Camellia phanii

Figure 9: Fruit of  Camellia phanii

1.7 Camellia tamdaoensis Hakoda et Ninh

Camellia tamdaoensis

Figure 10: Camellia tamdaoensis

Shrub or small tree, young branches brownish, pubescent, older branches glabrous. Leaves stalked, glabrous; blades oblong-elliptic or broad-elliptic, glabrous, apex accumulate, base cuneate or nearly rounded, margins blunt or sharply denticulate, lateral veins 7-9 pairs. Flowers yellow, terminal or axillary. Pedicels 5-7 mm long. Bracteoles 5. Sepals 5, nail-shape to nearly rounded, inner surfaces and margins pubescent. Petals 11-12, nearly rounded, round or obovate, elliptic, pubescent on both sides, united with one another and to androecium for 1-5 mm at the base. Androecium numerous, 1.5-1.7 mm long, outer filaments united about 9 mm, inner ones free, densely hairy at the base. Gynoecium glabrous, ovaries 3 or 4 loculi, glabrous styles 3 or 4, about 2.2 cm long, free to the base. Capsules flatted globose, 3-locular, 3 seeds each loculus, pericarp 2 mm thick. Seeds different semi globose or cuneate, glabrous.(Fig. 10)

Blooming season: Winter       

It was found in wet valley in evergreen forest at altitudes of 300-500 m.

This is an endemic species to Tam Dao.

1.8 Camellia tienii Ninh, Tr.

Small tree, opalescent, young branches and young leaves violet, glabrous. Leaves stalked, petioles 9-18 mm long, glabrous. Leaf blade thick coriaceous, oblong or elliptic, above, glabrous on both sides, apex acute, base auriculate with some teeth, margins sharply serrulate,. lateral vein 13-14 pairs. Flowers yellow, axillary. Pedicels about 9 mm long. Bractioles 5, 2-3 mm long, 5-7 mm wide, margins pubescent. Sepals 5, nail shape or nearly rounded, margins pubescent. Petals 14, outer petals pubescent, the rest sparsely pubescent, inner ones glabrous, petal shapes vary from almost round, wide elliptic to oblong. Androecium numerous, filaments about 3.3 cm long, outer filaments united about 1.8 cm, inner ones free, glabrous. Gynoecium 3-5, ovaries 3-5 loculi, glabrous, styles 3 or 5, free to the base, glabrous. Capsules globose, scabrous. Seeds semi globose or cuneate. (fig. 11, 12)

Blooming season: Winter to early spring.

This is an endemic species to Tam Dao.

Camellia tienii

Figure 11: Flower of Camellia tienii

Camellia tienii

Figure 12: Fruit of Camellia tienii


2. Current Situation of the Yellow Camellias of Tam Dao National Park

Covering an area of over 36,800 hectares, locating on an altitude of 400-1590 meters above sea level, TDNP is insulated from the surrounding mountains, with complex terrain, diverse and unique habitats. This is natural environment of thousands of not only already known species of plants and animals but also many unknown species or un-updated groups such as termites, land animals, fungi. As for biodiversity conservation, TDNP plays an important role which stems from its great advantages for biodiversity conservation in general and for the yellow Camellia species in particular.

One thing that everyone has to admit is that species composition of Camellia Genus of TDNP is abundant and highly endemic (10 out of 16 species are endemic, approximately 62 percent). In Vietnam, there are 24 yellow Camellia species discovered after more 10 years of field investigation and survey. Of the 24, 08 species are present at Tam Dao National Park (33 percent). They are rare genetic resources for Tam Dao’s vegetation.

Although the species composition of yellow Camellia of TDNP is quite diverse, the number of individuals as well as the scope of their distribution needs to be concerned above all now.  Most of yellow Camellia species has a narrow distribution, except Camellia gilberti. This is the first species discovered in Phu Ho “Tea station” and recorded in Vietnam Red Book as endangered species under the Endangered (EN). During the survey we collected this species in other provinces such as Quang Ninh, Thai Nguyen, Vinh Phuc. In TDNP, Camellia gilberti is found in many locations in survey area extending from Dai Lai lake to Son Duong of Tuyen Quang province.

Of yellow Camellia species at TDNP, Camellia petelotii and Camellia crassiphylla need to be paid special attention to their distribution of all. Camelliacrassiphylla distributes at an altitude of 500 - 600 meters in the forest called "Bombax plants". Many local people used to come to this area for collecting poor wood as fuel. Due to this collecting process, a number of individuals of this species have been logged. If there are no measures taken to preserve them in the near future, they will be at risk of extinction. Yellow Camellia Camellia petelotii was named as the name of French doctor - Alfred Petelot who collected first specimens of this species in Tam Dao Mountain in February 1922. Until now, this species has only been found in TDNP and it has also been the unique yellow Camellia species distributed in North Vietnam at the height of 900 meters. They located mainly along the sides of the foot of Rung Rinh peak. In 1994, many of this species’s individuals were observed when we were on the way to Rung Rinh peak. In 2005, a new road connecting the Tam Dao 1 to Tam Dao 2 was formed. This travel road lies along the distribution area of this species. As a result, many individuals of this species were cut down. In addition to the decline in number, habitat of Petelo Camellia is also changed a lot. Therefore, this species is now listed as an object in need of protection and future development of TDNP.

The remaining species Camellia tamdaoensis, Camellia tienii, Camellia hakodae, Camellia hirsuta and Camellia phanii are relatively abundant in nature. Camellia tamdaoensis and Camellia tienii can be found mainly in the southwest slopes of Tam Dao range, and distribute from a height of 200 m to 600 meters. Meanwhile, Camellia hakodae, Camellia hirsuta and Camellia phanii distribute in the northeast of TDNP. However, with an unsuitable protection and inappropriate attention at present, maintaining the number of individuals as well as ensuring their existence and development in the future is very difficult.

Discussing the current situation of the yellow Camellias cannot recognize the fact that they are being exploited to eradicate in the wild. The reason of this problem stems from insufficient awareness of yellow Camellias’ value. Most people are just seeing immediate benefits gained from these rare species. Every day, many people try to find and exploit yellow Camellias to medicinal purposes without even knowing their other major roles in ecosystem. Recently, the trading demand of yellow Camellia plants, especially the flowers of yellow Camellias has been sharply increased. Many traders by road between Vietnam-China border have come to Vietnam to purchase buds of yellow Vietnamese Camellias. On the time of their blooming season (September to December) yellow Camellias are being sought everywhere on the territory of Viet Nam of which we can all catch sight. As for Vietnamese people, whether selling price of yellow Camellia buds is not as high as when they are transported to China, the Vietnamese ethnic minorities still rushing to harvest them for extra income to improve their hard lives. Therefore, it is not easy to see a yellow Camellia flower in the natural forests of Vietnam in recent years.

Fig 13
Figure 13 : Camellia phanii buds are harvested
for sale to traders from the northern border

TDNP is also the focus of attention of the traders from the northern border. Every year from October, many people living around TDNP go daily into the forest to look for yellow Camellia buds. Many times each person can pick ¼ - ½ kilogram per day to sell to traders. The total amount of collected yellow Camellia buds is moved up Mong Cai border gate and taken to the other side of the border up to ten sometimes hundreds of kilogram. It was derived from that demand, that in order to facilitate the offer and sale, many people in the area of Tam Dao has public their addresses on varieties of media to contact the traders to sell all kinds of camellia plants, Camellia flowers, especially yellow Camellia great buds. It is considered as the main threat to the survival of Vietnamese yellow camellias in general and yellow camellias of TDNP in particular.

To deal with this situation, with the aim of conservation and development of yellow Camellia species in the short term and long term, TDNP has set out some of the following measures:

  1. Propaganda for local people and restricting them go into forest to harvest non-timber products including yellow Camellia plants and their flowers.
  2. Choosing five yellow Camellia species as priority subject to ex situ and in situ conservation.
  3. Carrying propagation by cuttings for five selected species. The results were very successful. According to an expected plan, these species will be planted in managed natural forest types in 2013.
  4. Calling on participation from relevant organizations. It is certain that the success of conservation and development of yellow Vietnamese camellias in general and Tam Dao camellias in particular, in addition to the efforts of management of TDNP, of Vietnamese scientists, also requires support and participation of International Camellia experts, especially Chinese ones who are actively involved in the conservation and development of Camellia species in China.

Literature cited

[1] Cao, J. Y. et al. ed. 2005. Collected Species of the Genus Camellia an Illustrated Outline. Chekiang Sci. Tech. Press, Hangzhou.
[2] Chang, H. T. 1981. A Taxonomy of the Genus Camellia. Act. Sci. Nat. Univ. Sunyatseni.
[3] Hakoda, N., Kirino Sh, Tran Ninh, 2007. New species of genus Camellia in Viet Nam. International Camellia Journ. N 39:54-57.
[4] Ming, T. L. ed. 2000. Monograph of the Genus Camellia. Yunnan Sci. Tech. Press, Kunming.
[5] Ninh, T. 2003. Biodiversity of Camellia genus of Viet Nam. Intern. Camellia Journ., 2002
[6] Ninh, T. 2003. Results of study on yellow Camellias of Viet Nam. Intern. Camellia Journ.
[7] Ninh, Tr. 2005. Bảo tồn nguồn gen một số loài động thực vật quý hiếm ở VQG Tam Đảo nhằm phục vụ cho công tác nghiên cứu, giảng dạy và du lịch sinh thái. Đề tài QG – 03-08, ĐHQG Hà Nội.
[8] Ninh, Tr.; Hakoda N., 1998. Three new species of the genus Camellia from Viet Nam. International Camellia Journal, No.30, pp. 76 –79.
[9] Ninh, T.; Hakoda N. 1998. Camellia petelotii: a new species of yellow Camellia from Viet nam. International Camellia Journal, No. 30, pp. 81 –83.
[10] Ninh, Tr.; Hakoda N., 2010. Các loài trà ở  vườn Quốc gia Tam Đảo. GTZ.
[11] Ninh, Tr.; Ninh, L.N.H. 2007 Diversity of wild Camellia species of Tam Dao National Park. Journal of Science – Natural Sciences and Technology, 23, pp. 152-154.
[12] Sealy, J. R., 1958. A Revision of the Genus Camellia. Roy. Hort. Soc., London.
[13] Bộ KHCN & MT, 2007. Sách đỏ Việt Nam tập 2: Thực vật. NXB  KHTN& CN..
[14] Hội các VQG & Khu bảo tồn thiên nhiên Việt Nam, 2001. Vườn Quốc gia Tam Đảo, Nhà XBNN.


Web design by Tribal Systems