Discovered in the 18th century by plant explorer John Bartram on the shores of the Altamaha River, in Georgia, this species has never been found in the wild since. Indeed, all specimens of the plant growing in public and private gardens today are descended from cuttings of the original discovery.
A small, often multi-stemmed, deciduous tree with attractive, gray, fissured bark, Franklinia alatamaha (named in honor of Benjamin Franklin) produces gorgeous, fragrant, three-inch-wide, snowy white camellia-like flowers from late summer to early fall. The fall foliage color—which may coincide with flowering—is also a sight to behold, ranging from vibrant orange to purple.
The Franklin tree requires moist, well-drained, acidic soil and full sun to partial shade.
In the Arboretum: You’ll find a lovely specimen growing near the north end of Azalea Way, not far from the Graham Visitors Center.