The ornamental Franklin Tree—binomially termed Fraklinia Alatamaha—belongs to the Theaceae (tea plant) family, but is the sole member of its genus Franklinia. As its name suggests, this plant is native to the Altamaha River valley in Georgia. Prized for its floral beauty and its scarcity, the delicate Franklin Tree can be difficult to grow, especially in urban environments. It can suffer from wilt or root rot, an onset of the Japanese beetle, or from ill-timed or poorly managed transplanting—made all the more difficult by its fibrous root system. Once planted, it’s best to let a Franklin Tree grow uninterrupted. This deciduous plant’s rounded peak can reach up to 10-12 ft. with a 6-15 ft. spread. With a 5-8 hardiness zone rating, the Franklin Tree thrives in medium, well-drained soils; it is most partial to rich moist loam with access to full sun to partial shade.
This species’ foliage is glossy and dark green, a stark contrast to its ridged grayish-white bark. In July and August, the tree erupts into fragrant, snow-white, camellia-like blossoms which linger until the first frost. In the autumn, the Franklin Tree’s leaves turn stunning shades of blazing orange, crimson, and reddish-purple, further intensifying this plant’s natural beauty.
Observed to be one of the rarest trees in the world, the Franklin Tree was first documented in Georgia in 1765 by botanists John and William Bartram. They reported the plant’s extremely limited distribution—its near extinction thought to be caused by a number of catalysts including natural disasters, over-collection (by plant collectors), and fungal diseases—and it was last confirmed in the wild in 1803 by plant collector John Lyon. No longer found in the wild, all of the currently documented Franklin Trees in the nation are believed to be direct descendants from the seed collected by William Bartram. He named the plant after his good friend—and one of our nation’s Founding Fathers—Benjamin Franklin.
Franklinia alatamaha is a beautiful, very rare small tree with eye-catching flowers which is native to the USA and was first found by westerners growing on the banks of the Altamaha River in Georgia.
Franklinia alatamaha has spectacular camellia-like, sweetly fragrant, large white flowers (to 6 cm in diameter) with centers of bushy, bright yellow stamens from late summer to early autumn. The leaves are long, narrow and dark green, turning excellent shades of orange, red and purple in autumn before falling.
An exquisite choice of tree for a warm, sheltered garden!
- Position: Sheltered in full sun or partial shade.
- Soil: Well drained, fertile soil. Franklinia alatamaha will not grow well in wet soils with poor drainage.
- Hardiness: Frost Hardy. To grow outside in the U.K., Franklinia alatamaha requires a warm, sheltered garden, a position away from cold winter winds and protection in severe winters or from late spring frosts.
- Flowering Period: July – August.
- Flower Colour: White with yellow stamen
- Rate of Growth: Slow to moderate.
- Habit: Eventually a small tree with a rounded habit once established.
- Height: up to 6 m (20 ft).
- Spread: 5 m (16 ft).
- Notes: Franklinia alatamaha is a tricky plant to grow well in the U.K. and is best attempted by experienced gardeners who are prepared to protect it from late spring frosts.
Please be aware that Franklinia alatamaha can be a fickle and difficult plant in the winter, if caught by frost or if planted in a poor position. As such, it is not covered by our guarantee.