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The Auburn-Opelika Men’s Camellia Club has been trying to put together a collection of camellias that have a connection to the Auburn-Opelika area.
Auburn native Ken Rogers accidentally found a 1960 reference to a Camellia japonica named “War Eagle.” It was named by Dr. Gilbert Fisher of Union Springs.
The club has a list of more than 500 named varieties that are growing in the Auburn-Opelika area but “War Eagle” is not on the list. No club members reported ever seeing the flowers.
After several months of searching last fall and winter, Ken Rogers, Wayne Bassett, Charles Mitchell and Wallace Baldwin of the club ventured to Union Springs to hunt for the rare variety on Fisher’s old plantation estate.
The property was recently purchased by Jason and Shaunna Flennikan who helped search some of Fisher’s old camellia bushes scattered around the property. One specimen looked suspiciously like the description of War Eagle.
While visiting Auburn residents William and Linda Dean, who live on South College Street across the president’s home, Mitchell discovered an established camellia near their back door.
Covered in dark red flowers, it was about 2.5 inches wide with a row of outside petals surrounding an anemone-like center containing the anthers. The flower matched a written description of War Eagle and the one found on Fisher’s estate.
This must be Fisher’s War Eagle. Linda said her father loved camellias and he was a contemporary of Fisher’s. She thinks this bush may have been planted or grafted in the late 1950s to early 1960s, about the time Fisher named the variety.
The Auburn-Opelika Men’s Camellia Club was founded in 1959, around the time that this plant was grafted.
What better place to find a true ‘War Eagle’ than directly across the street from the President’s Home at Auburn University. The club is in the process of propagating this newly found, old Camellia.