Camellias are among the South's icons—right up there with Elvis, cornbread, and kudzu—but these flowers are actually native to Asia. André Michaux, botanist to King Louis XVI of France, brought camellias (Camellia japonica) to Charleston, South Carolina, in the late 1700s, and they've graced our gardens and tables ever since. Sometimes called "common camellias," they have uncommonly beautiful glossy, evergreen leaves and luscious blooms in shades of pink, white, and red. Some even have yellow flowers. "I'm always partial to pink blooms," says JoAnn Breland, horticulturist for the City of Charleston. "I also like the forms of camellias; the flowers of "Professor Sargent" resemble folded crepe paper. They're so perfect that they don't even seem real."
Pictured: sasanqua camellias (Camellia sasanqua)