Red leaves on Camellia japonicas

taxonomist(7b VA)April 13, 2011

Does anyone know what causes the upper surface of a Camellia leaf to become bright red during late winter. As the weather here in central Virginia becomes warm snd springlike, the leaves have mostly reverted to the normal green. The plants are all C. japonicas; the sasanquas were not affected.

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New growth tends to do that sometimes. Azaleas old growth does that on shrubs that produce dark colored blooms (purple, red, etc). White flowered shrubs' leaves would not turn red (would stay green) as they lack the pigment in the foliage. It is nothing to worry about. Some leaves (new and old) will actually turn a bronze color as they start to age and this happens when the deciduous shrub/tree looses its leaves and the camellia gets a little too much sun. It goes away the shrub/tree leafs out.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2011 at 4:58PM
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love_the_yard(z9A Jax FL)

Same thing happens on most roses. The new leaves come out crimson/burgundy/maroon. They turn green as they mature.


    Bookmark   April 16, 2011 at 9:02PM
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taxonomist(7b VA)

Many thanks to all who responded to my query. The only glitch is; the leaves which had turned red were fully mature leaves and this happened in late October. Microscopic exam did not show bacteria or fungi;I don't have facilities to examine for viral particles. Since the date of the query, the weather has become spring and the leaves have become their normal green.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2011 at 6:59PM
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Using the example of roses again, their leaves tend to have an increase in the red pigments as a result of the weather... say if it becomes cloudy and-or cold for long periods of time. My camellia leaves do not react in that way but I just wonder if weather is the trigger in your case. Since I have not seen this leaf change in camellias here, did you take a picture of a leaf that turned red and that you can post in here? What variety of camellia are we talking about? What color sre the blooms? I speculate if this happens because it produces dark red blooms although my Professor Sargent is quite red and has not done this ever.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2011 at 6:02AM
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The Southeast experienced a colder than normal winter this past year. It's not uncommon for unusually cold weather to cause mature camellia leaves to turn red, brown, or, otherwise, be scorched and discolored. Many of these leaves will drop off the plant as it flushes with new spring growth.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2011 at 3:12PM
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davidrt28 (zone 7)

I'm bumping this because I find this interesting.
I currently live w/in 1 mile of the upper half of the Chesapeake Bay. I have grown camellias elsewhere in slightly cooler spots like the 6b area in western Ffx. county near Dulles. I have never seen anything like this before.
This 'Korean Fire' has been very healthy, I planted it a couple years ago and hasn't face any hardships other than bit of deer browsing. (and the hot droughty summers) This year it has only been down to about 29F so far, there were various flowers still blooming in early Dec. and even today I noticed a few C. 'Mason Farm' flowers and that an iris in a sheltered spot was still trying to bloom. Just in the past couple weeks the leaves have turned this strong shade of red. I'm almost sure I've never seen this before on any C. japonica or hybrid, and I didn't even think this plant did it last year!
Now, one thing that's interesting is almost all of my other Camellias are in morning shade in winter. This seems to be essential around here. Since 'Korean Fire' is supposedly quite hardy, it's the first plant I've tried in a spot that doesn't get morning winter shade. It's behind a big holly so it probably gets morning sun, shade for a few hours around 11am-3pm, then sun again for the very end of the day.

Last winter was very mild, but the winter before that I remember just a bit of burning on it in the spring. Is it possible it somehow "knows" it's in a spot w/o sun protection, and is preemptively activating some kind of protective foliar change? What we do have is a lot of wind, and we've had a couple very windy spells since mid autumn, including the aftermaths of the post-Sandy snowstorm, and the recent storm (which only produced a quick dusting here). Maybe its noticing these periods of possible dessication and preparing in advance this time? Before you laugh at my seeming anthropomorphization let's remember that studies have shown plants DO activate various genes depending upon conditions and its quite possible some of these activations could be persistent.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2012 at 6:21PM
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davidrt28 (zone 7)

Just to clarify, these are leaves that were most assuredly green as of early November. I inspected this plant around that time because that's when deer damage sometimes starts. I'm sure these are mature, green leaves turning red due to some kind of climate signal, not a late flush of new growth.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2012 at 6:34PM
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