The Bartrams saved it from extinction and they named it after their friend Benjamin Franklin.  Franklinia alatmaha is special at Tyler Arboretum.

With our Franklinia alatamaha trees readying their annual show for the heat of the summer, we are reprinting a short article from the July 1958 edition of the Tyler Bulletin.  To clarify Tyler’s Franklinia trees mentioned in the article:

  •  The tree on the south side of Rocky Run fell in 2004.  Cuttings had been taken from this tree in 2002 in an attempt to propagate it, but all the propagations died by 2004
  • 1956 Painter Records show two Franklinia trees had been purchased.   One was planted near the Painter Rows that Tyler has recreated, close to the bridge that crosses the water coming from the springhouse.  The other was planted in a row about 150 feet north from where the ‘old tree on the south side of Rocky Run’ was, which is within the Scenic Loop

All Franklinia trees existing world-wide descend from seeds collected in 1770’s by William Bartram, who saved it from extinction.  Currently, Tyler has three living Franklinia trees – the largest planted near the cistern in 1994 for Arbor Day, and then one in the Native Woodland Walk and one in the Lilac Collection – both from 2006.  Our thanks go out to Alison Dame, Plant Recorder, for the details on Tyler’s trees.

Tyler Bulletin July 1958-Franklinia (no author listed)

“It is a flowering tree, of the first order for beauty and fragrance of blossoms:…the flowers are very large, expand themselves perfectly, are of a snow white colour, and ornamented with a crown or tassel of gold coloured refulgent staminae in their centre, the inferior petal or segment of the corolla is hollow, formed like a cap or helmet…the borders of the petals are crisped or plicated (and) make a gay appearance…we have honoured (it) with the name of the illustrious Dr. Benjamin Franklin.  Franklinia Alatamaha…We never saw it grow in any other place (the banks of the Altamaha River near Savannah) which must be allowed a very singular and unaccountable circumstance; at this place there are two or three acres of ground where it grows plentifully.”

“So William Bartram writes of the garden treasure discovered by his father and him in 1765.  Not since 1803 has it been found in the wild.  Minshall Painter obtained a tree from Buist in 1854, a descendant, of course, of the Bartrams’ tree.  The present old tree in the Arboretum, on the south side of Rocky Run, is probably a sprout from the tree Minshall planted.

The Franklinia is a small choice tree which grows well in good soil that does not dry out.  It is perfectly hardy in this area.  Light shade seems to suit it very well but full sun does too, if it gets sufficient moisture.  The pure flowers open a few at a time in August and September, the glossy leaves turn a fine autumnal red.  It reaches a height of 20 or even 30 feet”.