In 1765 John Bartram was appointed Royal Botanist for North America by King George III. Later that same year, Bartram and his son discovered Franklin Trees, or Franklinia alatahama, along the banks of the Altamaha River in Georgia. In 1773, Bartram returned and collected seeds from this site, bringing them back to his garden in Philadelphia and successfully growing specimens. Franklin Trees with their smooth, gray bark with its irregular fissures have never been found in any other location in the world beside the banks of the Altamaha River and have been extinct in the wild since 1803. Fortunately for gardeners, the trees have survived in the landscape, each one you see descending from the seeds collected by Bartram. Franklin Trees are actually in the tea family.
If you're looking for a tree with unique features, Franklin Trees are hard to beat. Franklin Trees flower in September, putting out fragrant, white, five-petaled blooms that last for four weeks. They are the only tree that I know of that simultaneously produces fall color and blossoms!
Franklin Tree is a beautiful shrub/small tree noted for its lovely flowers and brilliant fall color. The history of this plant makes it a great conversation piece! As a rare plant of delicate beauty, Franklin Tree should be given a prominent place in the garden. Being somewhat finicky, it should be planted in moist, well-drained soil, high in organic matter and partly shaded. Franklin Trees grow 10'-20' high and 10'-15' wide.
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