Camellia oleifera, which originated in China, is notable as an important source of edible oil (known as tea oil or camellia oil) obtained from its seeds. It is commonly known as the Oil-seed Camellia or Tea Oil Camellia, though to a lesser extent other species of Camellia are used in oil production too.
It is widely distributed in China and is cultivated extensively there. It is found in forests, thickets, banks of streams and foothills at elevations of 500 to 1,300 metres.
This species looks much similar to Camellia sasanqua except the dark green, evergreen leaves are a bit larger, three to five inches long and two to three inches wide. Single, white, fragrant flowers are produced in mid to late fall, and this large shrub or small tree will reach a height of 20 feet with thin, upright, multiple trunks and branches. The crown forms a rounded or oval vase with lower branches removed.
The seeds of Camellia oleifera can be pressed to yield tea oil, a sweetish seasoning and cooking oil that should not be confused with tea tree oil, an essential oil that is used for medical and cosmetical purposes and originates from the leaves of a different plant. Tea-oil Camellia is commonly over 80% monounsaturated fat. As such, it reduces LDL ('bad cholesterol'). Tea Oil is also known as "Tea Seed Oil" when sold as cooking oil in supermarkets throughout Australia, New Zealand and the United States.
It can also be used in textile manufacture, soap making and as an illuminant. Camellia oil is also traditionally used to protect Japanese woodworking tools and cutlery from corrosion and is currently sold for that purpose.