Ok, so I’ve probably told this story too many times, but its one of my favorites. My oldest son and I make an 11th hour tour of Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster PA. (a little prodding from dad). As is usually the case, an undergrad gives us the grand tour and we’re just about finishing up in a rear courtyard space. I should add that it is indeed August. We come upon a grove of trees planted and blooming away. The student asks the million dollar question, “does anyone know what type of trees these are?” I wait the obligatory 5 seconds and there is silence so I speak. These are Franklinia Alatamaha. They were named after Benjamin Franklin by his good friend John Bartram. Bartram was one of this countries earliest botanists. He discovered Franklinia blooming on the banks of the Alatamaha River in Georgia. He collected the seed and began cultivating the tree. The tree was never to be found in the wild again.
So now I’m getting a whole lot of stares, so I ask if this entitles my son to free tuition, no such luck. Unfortunately for me this was where he received his incredibly expensive education.
What a fantastic plant. Beautiful white flowers from August almost through frost and often times while its incredible red fall color begins to show itself, a truly fantastic contrast. The fall color itself is magnificent shades of red. Often times franklinia is grown as a multi-stem tree, although it can be grown as a single stem. The white flowers have a yellow center, are camellia-like, and are about 3” in width. Franklinia will achieve a height of about 15’ with a 10’ spread. It prefers well-drained soil rich in organic matter. Full sun or filtered light will do the plant nicely. They can be a bit finickey to get established even though they are zone hardy, but once established you should have years of enjoyment of one of our favorite trees.
As an aside, we welcome all to guess from novice to hardcore plant geek (Roz). had almost thought we lost you. Keep those guesses coming!