Franklinia alatamaha – The Ben Franklin Tree
A very rare plant in its native habitat Franklinia alatamaha, in fact this attractive species is regarded as extinct, thankful saved through the work of early plant collectors.
Related to Camellias this is a deciduous species with brilliant red foliage in autumn.
Attractive white flowers are an attraction and good green foliage through the season is a mid green. The flowers are fragrant, and appear from summer through to autumn. The white petals are contrasted by the yellow stamens.
When the flowers and the autumn foliage appear at the same time Franklinia alatamaha is one of the truly outstanding trees in any gardeners collection.
Why is Franklinia alatamaha so Rare ?
This species was never widely distributed, it was confined to a very small patch in Georgia. The area was perhaps cleared very early on to grow cotton, or perhaps the conditions changed in some way. Whichever, all of the plants were lost. Fortunately, earlier in the mid 1700s, the plant collector William Bartram, collected some seeds and cuttings and took them to Philadelphia where they were planted and grown.
So Franklinia alatamaha was always a rare tree, it came close to becoming extinct.
This rare species requires a humus rich moist soil, it thrives in cooler climates and will not grow welling hot sunny positions. Over time Franklinia alatamaha will reach around 5m in height and form a rounded shrub to small tree.