The Red List of Theaceae, the tea family which includes Camellia, was published in December 2017 and identified that a third of the world’s Theaceae species are threatened with extinction. The report assessed 254 Theaceae species and identified 85 as threatened with extinction. The report also identified two species as Extinct in the Wild, the Franklin tree (Franklinia alatamaha) and Camellia amplexicaulis, highlighting the urgent need for conservation action. Nearly a half of the species in the Camellia genus are at risk of extinction in the wild. Tea itself (Camellia sinensis) is assessed as Data Deficient, due to a lack of available information on the species’ wild population, despite its global cultivation. The centre of diversity for Theaceae is East Asia, with the largest number of species found in China and Viet Nam.
The Red List of Theaceae includes a survey of ex situ collections. It revealed that 51% of threatened species are held in a collection, an impressive figure but not yet robust enough to meet the Global Strategy for Conservation which recommends 51% . Less than five ex situ collections hold the majority of these species – a number which needs significant boosting to ensure genetic diversity for reintroduction of species to the wild.