Franklinia is a monotypic genus in the Tea family (Theaceae), which means that they are related to Camellias as well. This sole species is Franklinia alatamaha, commonly called Franklinia, or the Franklin tree, and is native to the Alatamaha River valley in Georgia in the southeastern United States. In 1777, a specimen was brought from the banks of the Alatamaha River in Georgia to John Bartram of Philadelphia. Bartram, recognizing its extraordinary beauty and value, named it in honor of his lifelong friend, Benjamin Franklin. The original grove of Franklinia trees was again visited in 1790. However, from that day to this, no one has witnessed these trees growing in the wild, although many expeditions have searched the banks of the Alatamaha. The only Franklinias now are in cultivation.

Franklinia is a deciduous small tree growing as tall as 25 feet with a 15 foot spread, but is more commonly found at 10 to 15 feet. It’s prized for its flowers, similar in appearance to camellia blossoms, but even better because these are fragrant and they flower all the way from mid-summer to first frost. Greenish, pearl-like buds break into lovely white chalices which release a delicate, balmy fragrance. The immaculate white petals are set-off beautifully by coppery-gold stamens and the flowers last as the tree's leaves change color.

Franklinia has a pyramidal shape, and forms several vertical trunks close to ground level. The bark is gray with vertical white striations and ridged. The alternate leaves are up to 6 inches long and turn a blazing orange-red in fall.

There is a fruit but it develops slowly, with the seed capsules requiring 12-14 months to mature. When ripe the capsules split above and below in a unique manner.

Franklinias will never be found in the big discount building centers or even in the average nursery. They are connoisseur trees of the first order and will be found in the most select tree nurseries which often mean mail-order. But it is worth all the effort to have one if you have a place with sun to light shade and a moist, well drained soil. They can take quite a bit of cold and heat and in the US they grow from Massachusetts to Florida. They are fully hardy in the UK.



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