Deeper Into Jeopardy! XVIII: Gardening – $800

Jeopardy! category: GARDENING (05-12-2014)

$800 clue: This flower does well in partial shade but can be exposed to full sun


Correct response

The gist: It’s better known, I’d say, for its culinary uses than for its affinity for sunlight, but here we are. Camellia is a small evergreen plant native to East and South Asia, with flowers ranging from white to red, an affinity for acidic soil in very wet areas, and not much preference when it comes to shade. More importantly (on a global, historical, geopolitical, economic level), it’s also the plant that lends its leaves to make our delicious cups of tea,* over 4.5 billion tonnes of it in 2010. The flower had been grown in the Far East to centuries before it was brought to Europe. In 1739, avid gardener Robert James, Lord Petre grew the first plants in England, which led a few years later to the (small-scale) commercialization of the plant and its derivative beverage in that country, although tea had been popular among the aristocracy since the 1660s. At the end of the 18th century, the British East India Company brought back many more varieties, and in 1797 it made its way across the pond to New Jersey. Of course, it wasn’t any of these plants that ignited British tea culture, since nearly all of that supply came to the Isles by boat or by train from India, where the colonial administration had introduced Camellia in an effort to break to Chinese monopoly on the plant. Today, horticulturalists have produced more than 3000 varieties of the plant, many of which are used to produce special types of tea.

An engraved picture of Camellia reticulata from a 19th century catalogue of Camelliae

The clue: As I said, how much sun it takes is not the best-known thing about Camellia, which is probably why the writers decided to show a picture of the flower as well. It seems to me that plant categories often have visual clues, since, of course, lots of plants are used ornamentally, including Camellia. Definitely a question for a garden enthusiast, and there’s no reason why a garden enthuisast can’t also be a trivia fan, after all.

In Jeopardy!: Camellia appears in seven clues in the J!Archive (and it’s actually misspelled Camelia in this clue, so make that eight). Surprisingly, tea is only mentioned in one. The Jesuit missionary who lends his name to the plant, George Kamel, is mentioned in three, and Alexandre Dumas, fils‘ story known as “The Lady of the Camellias” in English also in three. Strangely enough, those seem to be the facts to know about this plant, as far as Jeopardy! is concerned.

*Except herbal tea, which is usually made from some other plant.

2 thoughts on “Deeper Into Jeopardy! XVIII: Gardening – $800

  1. Well, this is embarrassing. I never made the connection between Camellia sinensis and the Camellia flower before. Thanks for that!

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